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October 19, 2010


Spirit of Vatican II

Here are the comments on the earlier version of this posting:

It’s kind of... amusing, to see someone criticize words for being too old-fashioned with the word “fustian”. It’s too bad “fustian” doesn’t appear anywhere in the new translation, as I would have enjoyed the sight of seeing “fustian (fustian)”. It would have increased and expanded (pleonasm) my enjoyment of your critique, which one zealously anticipates (fustion) will influence the Church to rewrite the liturgy to your idiomatic preferences (sarcasm).

Posted by: joye | November 23, 2009

joye, like ALL defences of the new translation I have seen, yours confines itself to satirizing the critics. Bp Trautman has received barrages of this. Even the bishops, who have a sacred responsibility to watch over the liturgical life of the people, have treated the topic with jokes and frivolity. The noisy people who drowned out the warning voices will have some explaining to do when the ghastly texts are actually used in the Mass. In South Africa the bishops ran for cover, blaming Rome for the mess, except for Card. Napier who told the laity they had no right to criticize the new texts.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II

I agree with Joseph on this. There is far too much sarcasm, some of it extremely bitter, in Catholic blogs. It doesn’t advance understanding in any way. The respectful critiques of John Baldovin SJ and Peter Jeffrey, Obl.SB, not to mention our host on this site, get drowned under the screechy rhetoric of the bloggers. There’s a difference between fustian and elevated language. Fustian means language that is pretentious and pompous. Another word for it is bombast... I think Bp Trautman erred in critiquing words like “ineffable” in the new translations. This opened the door for sarcastic bloggers to claim that he wanted to “dumb down” the liturgy. Joseph pointed out a great example of fustian in this bit of the new translation: “Listen graciously to the prayers of this family, whom you have summoned before you.” By attempting a ‘slavishly literal’ take on the Latin we end up with the sense of a police court or a headmaster’s office -- in other words, a complete misunderstanding of the sense of the prayer.

Posted by: cor ad cor loquitur | November 25, 2009

I for one am looking forward to the new translation -- a simple layman, who will figure out what I do not understand. That is active participation at its best. Side by side, you realize just how banal and insipid the old translation was. If people don’t like it, then go back to Mass in Latin with the English translation in the Missal. That would solve the problem forever. In the age of the internet, understanding a few Latin prayers that do not change (the Ordinary) is not so hard. It may be the best way to go after all.

Posted by: Mitch

Mitch, you should look more closely at the new translation. The current translation is indeed banal and insipid; but apparently the improved version of this has been buried in the Vatican vaults, and we are given shoddy goods instead. Joseph Gannon makes a disturbing remark on the Commonweal thread about the scandal in Dublin: “The recent bishops of Dublin seem to me to have much in common with the bishops who produced the new English version of the Missale Romanum. Both sets of bishops surely did no less and no more than what they believed they were supposed to do and of course they took this to be exactly what Rome wanted, and quite possibly in both situations they were right about what Rome wanted. In both situations also there were unfortunate consequences, in the one situation damaged, perhaps ruined, lives and betrayed innocence and in the other an awkward, pompous and in some places a faulty translation. The difference that stands out is this, A poor translation can be scrapped and replaced by a better one if, as is possible, Rome should see the light. The situation is more difficult with the victims of presbyteral predators.”

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II

Je vois les choses autrement. Par exemple : “In humble prayer we ask you, (self-consciously groveling; pleonastic) almighty God” I can’t understand your criticism in many cases. here for exemple, the prayer reminds the faithful what are the inner way of standing to praise the Lord.
“command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, (verbose, fustian)” I love the reminding of the altar : it reminds O.T. cult and the way the N.T.’s cult accomplish it. It reminds one of Isaiah. That’s very ecumenical !
“so that all of us who through this participation at the altar (unidiomatic, obscure; the earlier draft had ‘sharing’)” This reminds us of our self offering to the Father through the self offering of Christ ! It reminds us that our life isn’t reduced to eucharistic cult; or more precisely that’s it’s our entire life that is eucharistic!

Sincerely, Gégé | January 08, 2010

With respect, can a French speaker easily judge the quality of English prose? The reference to the altar is in the original Latin and in the current translation; it was not the target of my criticism, which concerns style rather than content.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II

I do not see how you can assert that the Roman Canon is loved greatly by priests. Generally, this is the canon that is said the least in English speaking countries. One almost never hears this except from young priests.

Posted by: me | June 09,

The “buried” 1998 ICEL translation has been freed from the “Vatican vaults”. You can download the complete 1998 sacramentrary in all its glory. http://rapidshare.com/files/387089704/ICEL_Sacramentary__1998_.zip

Posted by: Anonymous

I had a rather different response from “me.” I am no longer Catholic, and never was a priest, but I have always loved those prayers, many of which I know by heart in Latin, since I first came to know them nearly fifty years ago. It may amuse some to know that the Bryn Mawr Classical Review review of the new Loeb edition of Cicero’s Philippics with Shackleton-Bailey’s English translation is in French by a French speaker. I do not understand the objection to “fustian” -- the use of the term, the thing itself is quite objectionable. It’s a a fairly common literary critical term with a precise meaning. I ran across it recently in an intelligent introduction to an obscure Hardy novel where it clarified something that has always bothered me in reading Hardy -- the tendency to say something like “he traversed the field” when it would have been fine to cross it.

Posted by: Gene O’Grady

Priests may avoid the Roman Canon in English because it is rather heavy for the congregation (the Third Eucharistic Prayer is the most serviceable). If there are priests who do not love the Roman Canon in Latin I am sorry for them. It is one of the iconic texts of Christianity, along with the Veni Creator (and the Veni Sancte Spiritus), the Salve Regina, the Pange Lingua. This is DNA-level.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II

See tomorrow’s TABLET, page 30: “THE CONTROVERSIAL new English translation of the Roman Missal, which the Vatican officially approved in its entirety last April, is actually still a work in progress and will include more changes that were never endorsed by the world’s English-speaking bishops…. “There were so many errors and inconsistencies in the [Missal] text that it required serious reediting,” sources said this week. They claimed that substantial changes were being made, even though the text was voted on by the bishops’ conferences.”

Posted by: Chris Grady | June 11

Chris, what a bombshell! Hoist with their own petard, indeed. The only honorable thing the Vatican can do now is to allow the present translations to be used indefinitely while they keep on tinkering with their new ones -- or else just jettison the new ones altogether. They might do some reflection on how they got to this sorry pass. What blind ideology lay behind Liturgiam authenticam and the promotion of incompetents to enact its mistaken prescriptions?

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II | June 12,

“to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her” is not “pleonastic and uncommunicative”. It is perfectly clear and on this point I must say this is a vast improvement. to guard, unite, and govern are acts distinct from the granting of peace. One could have peace without protection, one could be protected without unity, etc.

Posted by: me | June 26

How is it a vast improvement on: “watch over it, Lord, and guide it; grant it peace and unity throughout the world”? Here too to watch [= guard] and guide are acts distinct from the granting of peace. “Grant it unity” is more expressive than “unite”. The four items in the current translation fit together well and do not create the impression of pleonasm. But “guard, unite and govern” are a sequence of verbs that are individually less firmly profiled than in the current translation, and that do not form an interesting differentiation or dynamic progression when set alongside each other. They are far from the spontaneity of a heartfelt prayer. If one prays for the Church, what sort of things does one ask for? “O Lord, watch over your church, preserve her from danger and disunity, guide her by your word and with your grace” or something like that would be the normal way of praying for the Church. “Guard, unite and govern it” is cold and pale language; “watch over it Lord and guide it, grant it peace and unity” is far better.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II

Does anyone else find it amusing that a priest who is concerned about simplicity and clarity in liturgical language would repeatedly use the word “pleonastic?” Ha! Ha! My computer keeps underlining this word in red. Who are the real liturgical sobs?

Posted by: PastorJack | September 14, 2010

Pleonasm is a well-known trait of classical Roman liturgical language. Unfortunately it does not easily translate into English. Pleonasm means vacuous repetition, as in “a hot, scorching day” or “melancholy sadness”, though sometimes it can be used as an effective literary device, as in classical Latin ritual language both pagan and Christian, where it sets a trap for the unwary translator. “Fustian” is heavy pomposity, like the heavy, dusty fabric of that name. In German it is schwulstig, in Italian ampolloso. The translators of the disgraceful new versions do not have the literary ability to use fustian with conscious art; they are the kind of people who think they have struck a vein of eloquence when they write “he traversed a field” instead of “he crossed a field”. They are estranged from the strength of the Saxon roots of English, and from the powerful directness and immediacy of contemporary English (or Globish) speech. Their translation may be an attempt to be nobly counter-cultural, to spit in the face of history; the result is fatuous fizzles.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II

Spirit of Vatican II

I thought the 2008 translation showed bumbling idiocy. But the 2010 alterations show a worse condition -- dementia or hebetude:

"Among the revisers’ other problems with English usage is an inability to get the word order of subject and the auxiliary “may” right in subjunctive clauses: “Grant that, just as, being conformed to him, we have borne by the law of nature the image of the man on earth, so by the sanctification of grace may we bear the image of the Man of heaven.” Obviously, the line should read “we may.” “Look upon us and have mercy, that as we follow, by your gift, the way you desire for us, so may we never stray from the paths of life.” It should be, “so we may never stray”. There are a dozen such errors." (From the Pray Tell site.)

How can people translate Latin correctly if they are ignorant of basic English grammar?


Father, I certainly can't judge English prose as you can. However, something clumsy isn't always useless. All the more that there isn't one only "good" way of translating something.

You know, what's strikes me is that the new translation becomes more and more like the French one. Another tool for better understanding ? I find it interesting.


You know father, for an anonymous lay Catholic like me it is very difficult : no one is ever satisfied, especially in liturgy : from Blosser 's blog to yours, for very strict priests to fancy ones, we lay people are asked to take part in a community to help building the Church and live in the Spirit. However at each level, it's World War III, and I still search for charity... Which is the criterion of authentic Christian life.
In each Catholic trend, no one is afraid of treating the other trend with wonderful names from "heretic" to "homophobic".
Where is good will, an attentive ear?
Each time in a blog I ask the question, the blogger answers the same way ... He has many good reasons to do what he does.

So the Catholic war goes on.
What would you answer (If you want, hey, that's not an ultimatum ;-).

Spirit of Vatican II

I would answer: in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. Of course what I think are disputed questions others regard as matters of unshakable certitude, so the answer is not really an answer in practice.

I find the French translation of the liturgy very pleasing and truly dignified. But the Vatican wants to do a hatchet job on the French version too, claiming it is not literal enough...

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