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Sacred Vs. Vernacular Language

Bishop Trautman of Erie, PA, former chair of the bishop's liturgy committee, has just delivered a lecture criticizing the current draft of the new translation of the Missal. An article about his talk can be found here. An excerpt from the article:

He said the "sacred language" used by translators "tends to be elitist and remote from everyday speech and frequently not understandable" and could lead to a "pastoral disaster.""The vast majority of God's people in the assembly are not familiar with words of the new missal like 'ineffable,' 'consubstantial,' 'incarnate,' 'inviolate,' 'oblation,' 'ignominy,' 'precursor,' 'suffused' and 'unvanquished.' The vocabulary is not readily understandable by the average Catholic," Trautman said."The [Second Vatican Council's] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stipulated vernacular language, not sacred language," he added.

Liturgical matters are minefields -- I''m smart enough to know that. But may I just ask a few questions?Does anyone else out there feel a little uncomfortable with the good bishop's remarks about "the average Catholic"?I suppose Bishop Trautmann would also criticize the following words: "abolish," "forebears," "subversion," "sovereign," "eradicate," and "tribulation" -- but then the average American couldn't have been expected to understand President Kennedy's inaugural address, right?As someone who cares a great deal about the linguistic health of the Church and the culture, I confess that I don't find his list that terrifying. Some of the words are even suffused with a certain grace.There is a persistent strain of verbal iconoclasm in our culture that is not fundamentally different from the impulse that once led to the smashing of statues and looting of reliquaries.Also, can anyone explain to me what this distinction between "sacred" and "vernacular" language is? If he's talking about Latin vs. vernacular languages I think he's already on shaky ground, but let's not debate Sacrosanctum Concilium again. Rather, my fear is that he's saying something that's vaguer and more disturbing.Isn't the liturgy where we encounter the sacred?It seems a sad day to me when the sacred is equated with elitism.I can hear some of the counter-arguments being formulated -- a sacred language is the province of an elite that maintains a hegemony over the poor; I'm too young to remember the liturgy before Vatican II, etc.But I just don't believe in the opposition between the sacred and the common man, any more than I believe the medieval peasant secretly wanted to throw a rock through the rose window in Chartres.Anyway, since we're debating how the English language should be used, it is all vernacular. Capturing the sacred in liturgical language is not simply a matter of using big words; it includes syntax, metaphor, cadence, and more.Dante broke with literary tradition and wrote in his own vernacular, Italian. And butchers and bakers could be seen walking around Florence with the Divine Comedy in their hands, big words and all.By all means, let's debate liturgical changes, translations, etc. But let's do so without patronizing people or treating the sacred as if it is a problem to be avoided.


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Thanks, Jim. Your contribution says it all!Mr. Gannon - thank you for clarifying and I do understand what you are saying (I think). I just don't think it applies to our current liturgy; much less revising the creed based on our theological and ecclesilogical understandings and history.

Thanks for the excerpt, Jim P. Some of it reads like a skit from Saturday Night Live--e.g., "Has everyone voted? Again, this is just the Latin-rite bishops." Heaven forbid an Eastern rite bishop sneaks in a vote on "dew." ;) And though it's not same thing by a long shot, the bishops' exchange and voting reminded me of the colored beads used by the Jesus Seminar when they vote on what they believe are the historical actions and sayings of Jesus.

So sorry, I dont buy the idea that the changes of the 60s and 70s somehow made the Mass more meaningful.Sean,But did the changes make the Mass any less meaningful? Or did they change the feeling of it all from numinous to mundane? I could understand why people who relied on feelings fell away. Surely it is easier for the average person to feel that something mystical is going on at Mass when But what about all of the religious? The Christian Brothers, who taught at my high school, left the order in droves in the 1960s and 1970s. Didn't they have a deep enough understanding of the Mass for them to hear it in English without Gregorian chant and still find it meaningful?I remember in my early days in New York going into St. Patricks Cathedral and hearing a priest with a very pronounced Brooklyn accent saying Mass in English. It doesn't matter how good the translations are. He could have been reciting Shakespeare or reading from the King James Bible and it would still have sounded unholy.

Those bishops in their absurd, surrealistic discussions of the "dew" text show total indifference to the issue -- they think "our people" will put up with any crap and that the important think is to give Rome what it wants on schedule. May the proceedings of the these meeting be immortalize so that everyone will know how American Bishops guffaw about the liturgical distress of their flocks. The hungry sheep look up and are not fed -- oh ye blind mouths that scarce know how to hold a sheephook but know well how to cram your maw!

A couple of follow up thoughts that may be disconnected: - Fr. O'Leary - especially like the comment from George that if the do not vote in favor of this grey missal (given the track record of amendments to date), it would come back to them as a body in their November meeting for another interpretation: "vote; let's get this over with; we know what Rome wants"- the discussion about the change to I believe from We believe....reminds of the point of George's new book whose ongoing theme seems to be that as a people we have become too individualistic. Thus, let's say "I" and not "We". Makes sense to me.

Some of what the Catechism says:166 Faith is a personal act - the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. the believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbour impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.167 "I believe" (Apostles' Creed) is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during Baptism. "We believe" (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed) is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. "I believe" is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both "I believe" and "We believe".168 It is the Church that believes first, and so bears, nourishes and sustains my faith. Everywhere, it is the Church that first confesses the Lord: "Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you", as we sing in the hymn Te Deum; with her and in her, we are won over and brought to confess: "I believe", "We believe". It is through the Church that we receive faith and new life in Christ by Baptism.

167 I believe (Apostles Creed) is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during Baptism. We believe (Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed) is the faith of the Church confessed by the bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers. I believe is also the Church, our mother, responding to God by faith as she teaches us to say both I believe and We believe.Jim McK,Any objective historian will tell you that the Nicene Creed was commandeered by Constantine. Since that time belief was more important than faith. Jesus never talked about a creed. It was always faith in God. Belief is for builders of empire. Faith is for people of the Way. Christians.

Joseph Gannon, the creed as it is recited at Mass is not performative in the way you mean it here. If it were a baptismal profession of faith, then the effect would be as you suggest, and "we" cannot substitute for "I." But the recitation of the creed at Mass does not make anyone a believer; they are already members of the faithful. The corporate recitation (or singing) of the creed does pertain to a collective in this instance: the reality of the gathered assembly. If we don't say "we" then are we only a collection of individuals? The gloria likewise uses the first person plural; even though praising, blessing, worshipping and glorifying are all things done by individuals, they are here done by the gathered assembly.

What's the difference between a liturgist and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.

I have looked further into the question of performative utterances, and here is what I have found. The original discussion of this topic comes from J. L. Austin in his essay Other Minds. As far as I can tell, Austin only considered first person singular, present tense verb forms as examples. However there are certainly cases of first person plural present tense forms that also seem to be performatives. When the presbyter uses utterances like we ask... or the like, he is performing an action, not describing the action he is performing. How would that be different from saying we believe in or we acknowledge in the Nicene creed? I should say this. When the presbyter uses we ask... he is speaking for all, which in the matter of praying he is appointed to do and the answer amen affirms that situation. I think the creed is different for reasons I indicated earlier. The act in that case is better thought of as the act of each even though it is done in unison. Compare the I confess... which also belongs in the singular. Also it is worth noting that the current translation of the Apostles creed retains I believe in... In brief, while it seem quite reasonable for A to make a request on behalf of others with their consent, it seems to me less reasonable for A to perform an act of faith/belief in on behalf of others.

The" witticism" about liturgist/terrorist is surely old enough by now to be eligible for Medicare.

Rita Ferrone: You may be right, but I am not convinced. The recital of the creed is at least a reaffirmation that one believes in etc., and I tend to think that this is performative. If it is not performative we are merely describing what we believe and, so to speak, telling each other. I don't think that my account reduces us wholly to individuals and more that the first person singular does in "I confess...".

Thank you, as always, Rita Ferrone.In his commentary on Ad Tuendam Fidem (May 1998), Card. Ratzinger says at no. 12: "With the different symbols of faith, the believer recognizes and attests that he professes the faith of the entire Church. It is for this reason that, above all in the earliest symbols of faith, this consciousness is expressed in the formula 'We believe'." As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: 'I believe' (Apostles' Creed) is the faith of the Church professed personally by each believer, principally during baptism. 'We believe' (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed) is the faith of the Church confessed by the Bishops assembled in council or more generally by the liturgical assembly of believers."

Rita Ferrone: You may be right but I am not convinced. When we recite the creed we are at least reaffirming our beliefs, what our faith commits us to, and that seems to me performative. If it is not performative, we are merely enumerating the articles of our faith. That seems to have less point. As to the question of individualism, I dont think that if each of us reaffirms her/his shared belief in unison in a group, this leaves us no more than a set of unrelated individuals. Compare the use of the first person singular in the I confess....

Pardon the duplication. It was an accident. I thought the first one had been lost. That said, I think version two is better

Delete close quote after -- the formula 'We believe'

John PageThe Nicene creed was always in the singular until the recent translation. The new translation seem to revert to the singular. What to say?

"The Nicene creed was always in the singular until the recent translation."I'd think this would be the translators' point: "Credo" is first person singular (and they would end the discussion there)As with translating "pro multis" is "for many" - I think the expectation going forward is that catechists and homilists will have to start taking on the liturgical texts to unpack the multiple layers of meaning.

Oops! The Niceno-Constanopolitan creed had the plural "we believe" and it is the Latin version that changed (!) it to "I believe". So the Latins look like the bunglers in this. I apologize for believing in the Latin translation.

Further apologies to Jim Pauwels for misleading him.

"When we recite the creed we are at least reaffirming our beliefs, what our faith commits us to, and that seems to me performative. If it is not performative, we are merely enumerating the articles of our faith."Joseph, I think there may be something to that. In that sense, perhaps it links to the Baptism rite, in which the already-baptized are explicitly invited to renew their baptismal vows (in, notably, the first person singular - "I do"). In addition, in the context of RCIA, I believe this prayer is prayed on Sundays immediately after the catechumens are sent forth - thus it is a prayer of the already-initiated. I'd think one of its functions at Sunday mass is to reaffirm, particularly in the light of the Gospel which has just been proclaimed and (hopefully :-)) connected to our lives by the homily.

Hi, Joseph, it's true that I misunderstood your singular/plural reference, but in a sense your original comment does have merit: post-Liturgiam Authenticam, the base text for translation is the Latin editio typica, which I believe uses "credo".

"So the Latins look like the bunglers in this. "It would be interesting to understand how "we believe" ended up as "I believe". My guess is thta it has to do with private mass recitations, but I don't really know.

The use of the singular in the Latin missal seems at odds with--one might venture to say contradicts--the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger cited above as well as the teaching of the CCC. Does this inspire confidence?

In the original post, Gregory Wolfe wrote:"Does anyone else out there feel a little uncomfortable with the good bishops remarks about the average Catholic?"I suppose Bishop Trautmann would also criticize the following words: abolish, forebears, subversion, sovereign, eradicate, and tribulation but then the average American couldnt have been expected to understand President Kennedys inaugural address, right?"As someone who cares a great deal about the linguistic health of the Church and the culture, I confess that I dont find his list that terrifying. Some of the words are even suffused with a certain grace."If I may suggest another dimension for consideration: istm that, pastorally, the situation is quite different now than it was in the 1960s, when the work was done on the translations we've been using for the last 1 1/2 generations.In particular:* English speaking Catholics no longer feel beholden to attend Mass. The fear of mortal sin, wisely or foolishly, has dissipated. Consequently, regular mass attendance has declined sharply, and the level of liturgical catechesis, particularly among the young, is quite dismal. That means that translators are translating for an audience that is likely to be less familiar with the rite and its words. Words and phrases can't be expected to resonate with previous worship experience as they did for earlier generations who went to mass like clockwork. The words of the translation will be taken at face value, on their own proclaimed and poetic merits.* The unconnected, unchurched aspect of the faithful also creates an evangelizing imperative: if the rite does not appeal to the unchurched - does not act as a conduit for God to touch them within their deepest core - the unchurched will not become churched.* In the US, and I believe in other English-speaking nations, the culture has become more diverse and multi-lingual. The percentage of Catholic faithful who worship in English but whose first language is not English has risen pretty dramatically. So the words need to be accessible to people for whom speaking English is not second nature, and who don't "think" in English.

I am away from home, and so without books. Another text that might help is the declaration of the celebrant after the assembly's renewal of baptismal promises: "This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen."As you might suspect, Jim, I have some problems with Liturgiam Authenticam. But it seems to override even Cardinal Ratzinger.

Dear John and all, please don't take my comments as criticism of "we believe". FWIW, I think that is certainly an aspect of the meaning of the prayer, whether we are recite it as first person singular or first person plural. The CCC tries to present a balanced view on the matter, istm. There is both a personal and corporate dimension to our faith life, and our worship should reflect those multiple dimensions.

Gregory Wolfe, is your recitation of that tired old cannard after my last post just a random insult or is it directed at me in particular? Quite aside from the bad manners involved in proferring put-downs or offensive jokes, I would take issue with both of your final remarks in the original post. First of all, the problem is not with the sacred. You misread Bishop Trautman grievously if that is what you take his remarks to mean. The problem is rather with a "sacral language" called for by Liturgiam Authenticam -- a very problematic concept that has hardly arisen because of Bishop Trautman. It was at issue in the debate about Latin for years before the Council.Second, getting on your high horse about the advanced educational level of the average Catholic is just not appropriate. I, for one, hope that the Church continues to embrace the poor, the illiterate, people lacking in education and sophistication, and children, and would argue that the gospel compels us to consider their needs before we consider our own. All can be met, I believe. But to feel your dignity is aggrieved by a bishop concerned with the comprehension of a wide range of people is to ignore some of the very real situations we face, such as Jim Pauwels mentioned above.

Dear Ms. Ferrone:What you call a canard some people consider a joke. My inclusion of the joke was intended to add just a touch of humor in what often becomes an over-heated and uncivil debate.As someone unkindly pointed out, it is an old joke. So I apologize for that. But I can assure you that it was not directed at you.As to your other points:My criticism of Bishop Trautman's talk did not imply that he was the originator of anything. I simply found much of his argument unconvincing and, frankly, patronizing.I do not doubt that "sacral language" is a debatable concept. However, that the liturgy should strive for a "sacral language" should not be a matter for debate. As I tried to point out with in my original post, if you use visual analogies to the liturgy, the subject becomes clearer. Unless one is an out and out iconoclast -- prepared to strip language of connotation and dignity the way Cromwell's men stripped altars -- one has to grant that language should be more than a merely functional, lowest common denominator thing.And that is precisely where I stand with the poor, as my original post made clear. The notion that the poor cannot understand any language that is elevated or sacral is heartbreakingly misguided. Again, to use the analogy I set out in my post, it's like saying that the medieval peasant in Chartres cathedral secretly wanted to celebrate Mass in a hovel.The poor want and need the sacred like everyone else. For centuries they have given their mites to erect cathedrals and adorn tabernacles. I for one believe we should not deny them their right to do so.One last thing: to continue to the visual analogy, we can debate whether "sacral language" should be a Gothic cathedral or a Shaker chair. But even the simplest Shaker chair is still beautiful, more than a merely utilitarian tool.

Joseph Gannon, thank you for your follow-up remarks about the opening of the Nicene creed, and especially for your note concerning the Greek and the Latin. I had wondered what happened.I agree with you that we do not recite the creed in order to just be descriptive. It is a liturgical act that is intended to strengthen our faith by professing it publicly together. How that is best accomplished is what we have been discussing.Of course, some liturgical texts are the way they are because of their history, and inconsistencies are inevitable. I believe that the Apostles' Creed keeps the first person singular because it was a baptismal creed, and the history of the text itself is thus embodied there. As several have noted, the Nicene Creed has a different origin. Just on a personal note, I have to admit to a fondness for saying "we believe" at Mass on Sunday because it does seem to be such a moment of solidarity. I can say "I believe" any time, but when I am with the assembly at Mass, a new dimension comes to the fore.Thank you also, John Page, for your comments in this discussion. You would know better than anyone else the numerous considerations that go into each of these decisions!

Gregory Wolfe,You say: "However, that the liturgy should strive for a sacral language should not be a matter for debate."I'm sorry to tell you this, but it is a matter for debate. It has been for as long as the partisans of Latin have argued that Latin is a sacral language and must be maintained as such. The instruction "Liturgiam Authenticam" has transferred the debate over into the vernacular language playing field, but it's the same debate.

Gregory, you seem to be assuming that without a "sacral language" the liturgy would fail to be a vehicle for the sacred. Is that what you are assuming? If so, I would disagree. Or are you saying that anyone who does not agree that there should be a sacral language is ipso facto opposed to "the sacred"? Here too, I can think of numerous counter examples in the history of the movement which produced the vernacular liturgy.

Dear Gregory Wolfe,I am sorry to have offended you. Rita Ferrone and so many other liturgists whom I have worked with and admired through close to four decades deserve better than your well-intentioned, but I think mistaken, attempt at humor. All kindest wishes, John Page

Thanks to Jim for the link above to the Adoremus site with the transcript of the Bishops meeting. Reading it was instructive, if not edifying. Bishop Troutman has spoken elsewhere in a more considered way about the effects he fears using the proposed texts would have on the people in the pews. He is clearly quite frustrated with the process, its results, and his colleagues response to the very real issues he has raised. He may come across as condescending in the piece blogged on here, but I think he understands the dimensions of the problem the new text presents and his worries are justified.That endless episcopal committee work on sacral language and more literal translation of the Latin would lead to appalling results was all too likely. The Bishops are not linguists, expert translators, accomplished writers, poets. What they wanted to make inspiring comes out as pompous, lofty, abstract, unintelligible, illiterate. And in their hearts, they seem to know it. But they lack the will to do anything serious that might disoblige Rome. Maybe they know how little power they have to make a difference. Instead of admitting the job at hand has been misguidedly organized and poorly carried out, they seem to want nothing more than to get it off their hands, approved, and made somebody else's problem. (Ours.)A symptom of their denial of the scope of the problem they face is the enormous faith they are putting in catechesis. (They really like that word. Remote and proximate catechesis. It rolls so well on the tongue.) During the Bishops meeting, Bishop Kurtz of Louisville cheerfully compared catechesis to his taking of golf instruction: it improves his game and he even enjoys the game more, so surely the people could be readied to accept the new translations easily enough. Really, do you laugh or cry? Do take a full hard look at the transcript.

Jim - you raise some excellent points about this mis-directed effort. The biggest liturgical challenge we face in the Southwest, is the huge number of 1st generation/2nd generation Hispanics who want liturgy in their language.The church/pastors face difficult decisions - you can appeal to the 19th century example and set up Hispanic parishes; or separate Hispanic masses/communities within Anglo parishes. But, does this really show unity? Does this address the need for a parish to be welcoming, to stretch itself, etc. So, some pastors are trying to develop bilingual masses in a liturgical area that does not have a whole lot of experience or resources (yes, there is the odd success story but all too often a more majority failure or just getting by).Given the dearth of Hispanic liturgical resources, music, etc. and then adding this latinized liturgical language on top of this, you can quickly become overwhelmed and feel like the most important challenge is being sidetracked.Thanks also to John Page's statements on the WE-I story. Again, his 30+ years of experience in the trenches means he has probably forgotten more than the rest of us will ever know about ICEL, etc.

Susan - will copy some of my responses to the catechetical efforts in our diocesan paper introducing the new Roman Missal and the link to the USCCB website on this:You will note the process of skipping over liturgical development, history, experience and honing in only on this "new" announcement that we "await with excitement" - guess that is part of the internal catechesis - there have been three articles to date.My response to the first article written to the editor and copied Fr. Duggan:"Would suggest that Fr. Duggan's comments are misguided or overgeneralized at best: Examples:a) Per Duggan: "Many in the United States remember the transition of the Mass following the end of the Second Vatican Council. The changes of the Roman Missal were a source of controversy for the church following the end of the Council. (Can he document the controversy - 2,147 bishops approved Sacrosanctum Consilium with only 4 bishops voting no. The overwhelming reaction was one of excitement; not controversy. Fr. Duggan states a negative generalizaiton that was a distinct minority opinion. Pastoral and liturgical experts would agree that 1965-1970 had difficulties but let's at least be accurate);b) The English translation of the revised Roman Missal is nearing completion, of which Bishop Kevin J. Farrell is a member....(would be helpful to have an editor check for complete sentences, good grammar, etc. and this is inaccurate)c) Per Duggan: "One of the chief reasons for the implementation of the website by the bishops committee is to deal with the numerous unofficial websites and other forms of misinformation that are being distributed that contain incorrect facts about the Roman Missal itself or do not fully understand the process that has been used in the formation of the Roman Missal. In May of 2002, the Vatican published the Latin text of the Third Edition on the Roman Missal. Beginning that year the bishops of the English-speaking world have been working to prepare an English translation of the Roman Missal." (Where did he come up with this "other unofficial websites" - can he document that? The bishops are not working on an english translation - a newly appointed committee in Rome replaced the original ICEL group; this committee + VOX CLARA have prepared the new translations, wordings and then these documents go to the national bishops conferences for their review and votes. Let's at least be accurate about the process if our goal is education. Who is does not fully understand the process that has been used in this formation?);d) Per Duggan: "Bishops from English-speaking countries attending the Second Vatican Council set up the commission in Rome in 1963. On Sept. 15, 2003, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments formally established ICEL as a mixed commission in accordance with the Holy Sees Instruction Liturgiam authenticam." (well, he just eliminated the years 1965 through 1993 - ICEL was set up in 1963 during Vatican II. 28 years of excellent ICEL translations for all sacraments, sacramentary, divine office, etc. and in late 1980's started a more comprehensive re-translation to improve the poetry, tone, and proclamation of these original translations. In truth, some of the early translations were done hastily and did need improvement. He also is passing over the fact that Vatican II set up ICEL to report to the various national conferences of bishops by language group. Rome was to only approve what these national conferences approved. Liturgiam Authenticam and Rome have now diminished the role of national bishops conferences and replaced them with their new ICEL/VOX CLARA set up);e) Liturgiam Authenticam - per Fr. Duggan: "Also working with the new translation of the Roman Missal have been the members of the Vox Clara (clear voice) Committee established by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which gathered bishops and consultants from Englishspeaking countries to assist in the review and approval of the English translation of the Roman Missal. The Vox Clara Committee has been meeting several times each year to review texts submitted to the Holy See for its recognition." (He leaves out a significant part of the history - Liturgiam Authenticam as a document addressed and changed the liturgical principles of the Vatican II liturgy document - the issue is how to translate. The 2,000+ bishops of Vatican II stated liturgical principles that approved the use of the vernacular and a translation method called "dynamic equivalence" which focused on the meaning of words, phrases, and context of the gospels, epistles, OT readings and not the literal word by word translation. The 1969 General Instruction on the Roman Missal emphasized the translator's task was to find a faithful but not literal English equivalent of the Latin and the "unit of meaning" was not individual words but the whole passage. GI also stressed the principle that the community's prayer is local and not a one size fits all formula translated verbatim. Also, Fr. Duggan makes no mention of the fact that Vatican II's document was an attempt to return to the ancient and traditional way the liturgy was celebrated in the 1st and 2nd century church. Liturgiam Authenticam rejected this reform and declared that an arbitrary latin translation be made the foundation and that the "new" ICEL use literal translation to try to keep as close to the latin as possible. In addition, Rome/CDW set up VOX CLARA to oversee and replace the national conferences of bishops in preparing their own vernacular translations. In fact, you have folks in ICEL who can not speak english or, for example, Japanese approving these new latinized translations when they do not even understand the vernacular language. Note - no biblical catholic experts or exegetes were part of this process. The latin bible being used is a translation that is inaccurate in itself. What this leaves us with is a midrash of words that sound more Victorian English than what we have used for 45 years.)f) "new" ICEL - Per Fr. Duggan: "In 2004, translations were prepared and submitted to the bishops of the United States. (He fails to mention that these translations began in secret in 2002) After more than two years of review and consultation and three drafts, the English translation of the Order of Mass, along with a number of adaptations for the dioceses of the United States, was approved in 2006. After the text of the Order of Mass was completed, each of the remaining 11 sections of the Roman Missal were presented to the bishops in similar fashion." (In reality, the initial US bishops review rejected this approach and returned the proposed translations to Rome and the New ICEL. Rome over-rode these objections; very few US bishops or any english speaking bishops conferences were allowed to interject other wordings, comments, etc. After two years and repeated efforts, the US Bishops only recently gave in and voted for the "new" translations. What has happened is that we have moved from emphasis on the prayer of the community and replaced it with emphasis on the centrality of a Latin text.)g) Fr. Duggan makes no statement about the Advent 2008 experience in South African using the New Roman Missal - even two bishops spoke out about the confusion, ackwardness, and difficulty in the "new" translations.h) Fr. Duggan makes no mention of US bishops who have eloquently raised issues about this planned change - Bishop Trautman link: or Fr. Duggan leaves out completely the fact that these new latinized prayers make no effort to reflect cultural, societal, or inclusive language needs that are now taken for granted in American society, worship, and business. Reaction from the South Africa experience from Bishop Kevin Dowling - link: I would seriously ask you, as editor, to rethink how you approach this important issue in our catholic community and parishes.My response after the second catechetical article: a) Duggan's (diocesan Master of Ceremonies and Liturgy Head) statement that "recent scholarship" has led to these changes e.g. "and also with you" changed to "and also with your spirit". - "recent scholarship" is, at best, a nice euphemism for what has occurred in the curia (CDW & CDF) since 1998. The original Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, set up liturgical principles - e.g. vernacular use and translations that would be handled by bishops' conferences with only Rome approval. Paul VI followed up this document with a more focused motu proprio, Comme Il Previot, that set up translation bodies via conferences of bishops using "dynamic equivalence" rather than "literal translation, word by word, from the older missals." This was also following other Vatican II documents on collegiality and subsidiarity. - Liturgiam Authenticam was another pope's motu proprio that contradicted the principles of the documents of a council - over-ruling collegiality/subsidiarity. Which takes greater precedence - the work of a council and 2,200 bishops/pope or a liturgical document written by a few and signed off by a pope who was in ill health and dying? It will be obvious to most educated Catholics that a minority is driving this new missal (there has always been a minority since Vatican II - so, why the reversal in terms of liturgical, sacramental, and worship styles? - Using this newly instituted curial system, CDW eliminated 35 years of experience and work by the ICEL; set up their own translation group (with very few english speakers) and an outside oversight board, VOX CLARA. This group began to work in secret and only after B16 did they begin to present their "new" missal to the conferences of bishops - this turned the Vatican II translation principles upside down. Bishops' conferences were no longer responsible; the work was centralized, and Comme Il Previot was replaced. - You make no mention of this timeline or events. Once this new Missal was presented, the USCCB has voted negatively at almost every meeting with numerous amendments being offered. Yet, over the years the CDW has incorporated almost none of the amendments and has quickly re-submitted the New Missal for a re-vote. It would not be a stretch to say that the various english speaking bishops' conferences eventually just gave up and gave approval. (e.g. even last June, US bishops whe attended the USCCB meeting did not vote in enough plurality to approve the new missal - votes had to be sent to bishops who did not attend the meeting to reach a majority. - there is an argument for the New Missal that states a need to recapture the "vertical" element in our worship. It implies that the liturgical changes created too much "horizontal" worship that has resulted in loss of spirituality, attendance at worship, etc. These are assumptions that are not supported by the research of CARA, CUA, or Pew Studies. Vatican II's liturgical and other approaches underlined the best in Catholic faith which is - "both/and" rather than "either/or". This has not been addressed in your explanations.b) In Duggan's explanation of his "Spirit" example, he references that other language groups already had been using "spirit" for years. That is correct but in the initial translations in languages such as german, french, etc. spirit was a logical choice for translation because it fit their current linguistic format, tone, and style. That was not true for some of the english speaking conferences. Again, appears to be a quick justification that does not hold up to careful research or the historical record.c) Finally, keep in mind that you are targetting a group of adult Catholics who were, say 25 years old or more in 1970. They are now 60 years old or more; most have probably been active in their parishes; have sent and trained children to be active in the liturgy, are now in retirement, and you are asking them to accept a change in liturgy language that they have grown accustomed to over 30+ years. Do you think your approach will confuse them or reinforce the need for this change? (adult catholics much less young catholics no longer respond to the pay, pray, and obey authorianism approach)d) What happens with Hispanic liturgies, how about bi-lingual liturgies? It appears that the spanish conferences have only just agreed upon one bible so that their lectionaries, missals, and translations will not be at such variance. So, in a bi-lingual mass, you will have a new missal for english and an old missal in spanish?e) Did appreciate your insertion of resources esp. Jungmann (who will really read him?) but will you also provide information from folks such as Bishop Trautman, Robert Mickels of the Tablet, etc?f) How are you going to explain and introduce the US Catholic Liturgical Music Commission and its findings about hymns that may or may not be approved for continuing use?Finally, this thread focuses on the language changes - but we also face a huge change in music as we shift to a Rome/Bishop Conference approach that will approve any music to be used in US liturgies. Many compositions will be rejected; some will need to be revised, etc.

"The biggest liturgical challenge we face in the Southwest, is the huge number of 1st generation/2nd generation Hispanics who want liturgy in their language."I've probably mentioned this before, and don't expect to garner widespread support for this view, but: the 2nd Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium, in permitting the use of the vernacular, also directed that Latin be retained in liturgy. Obviously, that latter directive was subsequently cast aside during the implementation of the renewal - to general popular approbation, and with the consent of the same Council Fathers and Consilium experts who participated in the Council.Still, stm that, strictly from a pastoral point of view, and not speaking from a particular desire to placate liturgical traditionalists: if the diverse peoples in the US could still come together and worship in Latin, at least from time to time, it would be a good thing. I believe that worship in the vernacular should still be the norm; but I wish there were a way that Latin could have still found a place at the table, too. It could be a real concrete sign of unity that encompasses cultural and linguistic diversity. In bilingual celebrations that I go to from time to time, it tends to be mostly English, with a reading or a hymn here and there in Spanish. I hope that's interpreted by Spanish speakers as a sign that we're all one, and not as patronizing or token acknowledgement. I can imagine that, for someone who speaks Spanish and isn't very fluent in English, trying to worship in English must be a burden. Trying to re-introduce Latin now would be a great burden on everyone, as a couple of generations now don't have any experienec worshipping in Latin. The window of opportunity would have been in the '60's and '70's, and we missed our chance. I don't know whether the Council Fathers were farsighted in their prescription that we keep Latin, or whether world just turned round to where we are now, unforeseen by anyone, but in retrospect I think we'd be better off if we had followed the prescription to keep Latin alive.

Jim, your proposal seems eminently reasonable to me. But such are our polarized times that I fear any advocacy of Latin will be treated as the thin end of the wedge for the forces of evil. That's a crying shame, especially for a church whose name means "universal."Rita and others: I understand that the term "sacral language" may be used by some in ways that are highly objectionable. My concern is that in the battles over the liturgy we place "the sacred" in opposition to the "average Catholic." There are all kinds of oppression -- there can be the oppression of a hieratic caste that employs language to wield power. But there is also the oppression of a populism that can become detached from the true needs of the people.We need to strive to avoid every kind of oppression.Also, allow me to say that I am well aware that I am in the midst of a conversation that includes people who have devoted decades of their lives to these matters. I have profound respect for the passion and commitment of those who have been in the trenches. My only hope is that the veterans will be gracious enough to welcome the thoughts of anyone who wishes to meditate on these matters in a spirit of good will.

Cardinal Levada speaking about the new Apostolic Constitution was caught praising and emphasizing the value of cultural diversity, and saying that it is not a problem for church unity. Are the Vatican bureaucrats afflicted with cognitive dissonance? Respect for cultural diversity is exactly what is wanted when it comes to liturgy.

Rita Ferrone: I have a copy of a Greek Orthodox prayer book The Divine Liturgy of Our Father among the Saints John Chrysostom. It has "I believe" rather than "we believe". I wonder why they changed to the singular and what the history of it, but I have no idea. I have no doubt that the original text from the Ecumenical Councils was "we believe".

About "we" v. "I" believe --Isn't the sum of all the individuals in the assembly saying "I believe . . ." expressed by "Every person here believes . . .", and isn't this equivalent to reporting "We believe . . ."However, I don't think an individual can assert belief for other persons-- he/she can only report other people's assertions of belief. The distinction between assertions of belief and *reporting assertion of belief is a very fine one, but in this matter I think the distinction is important.Prof. Gannon -- Austin did a talk on the BBC specifically on performative utterances. (So much for the notion that philosophy is beyond the ken of ordinary folk. Of course, Austin spoke largely in ordinary language.) You might find it interesting. The talk is also found in his collected "Philosophical Papers".

Jim You may be right, but I am not certain I agree with you that attending mass in another language is necessarily all that problematic. I can imagine that, for someone who speaks Spanish and isnt very fluent in English, trying to worship in English must be a burden.However I might be biased because I like learning Spanish and enjoy trying to follow other languages as well.We all know the Order of Mass, and most parishes that offer mass in Spanish purchase bi-lingual missalettes. And so regardless of the language, we all know what is happening at any given point during mass.We still attend mass in Spanish once a month or so, but years ago when we were first married, my wife and I almost always attended Sunday mass en Espaol. It did not take very long before I was able to keep up with the language. But again, I like languages and so had an interest.Recently our local priest has introduced some Greek and Latin; the Kyrie and the Angus Dei. He explained the Kyrie would remind us of the connection to the Greeks, and the Angus Dei has artistic and historical value. He sometimes gives (chants) the final blessing in Latin as well a nice touch.While I think we Catholics almost threw the baby out with the bathwater regarding Latin, I am not as pessimistic on it as you seem to be Jim. People do not need to be fluent in Latin to understand the final blessing or the Angus Dei, and one need not be fluent in Greek to understand the chanted Kyrie. Rather than moving heaven and earth to offer a full-blown Tridentine mass (with all the local controversy and wailing and gnashing of teeth that would entail), it is probably best to simply incorporate some Latin into the Novus Ordo. I think the Novus Ordo is translated from Latin in the first place anyway no?I understand how some folk worry about Latin, but it definitely has, especially when used for common songs and chanting ordinary parts of mass, a cultural and artistic value and should not be ignored. Add to this the fact that we Catholics have used Latin for so many centuries, and it does not seem like we ought to simply toss Latin aside.

Oops Semicolons do matter:While I think we Catholics almost threw the baby out with the bathwater; regarding Latin, I am not as pessimistic on it as you seem to be Jim.

There was never one universal language for liturgy; not even latin. That is a historical myth. And thinking that bringing back latin would be the answer misses every liturgical principle articulated in Vatican II.Some of you earlier quoted from the liturgical documents about how we were to maintain latin, gregorian chant, etc. We also know what the outcome was. Many parishes still have the ability, will, liturgy/music directors to implement those original concepts but most do not. We are now 2 generations since Vatican II and the latin that the documents cite has nothing to do with this current re-write & retranslation of the Roman Missal using some latinization theory.Agree with comments such as: listen to the synod for Africa; listen to the sisters from Oceania and Asia; listen to South America....they are not asking for a re-latinization of the mass or sacraments. They already have a difficult task trying to catechize without trying to use latin. Would agree - this project flys in the face of most of what folks are talking about and asking for.Ann - can't find it right now but when you get to other rites especially the eastern church; their liturgy style, theology, and workship is very different from the west and their use of "I" rather than "We" dates back hundreds of years and is characteristic of their liturgy - just as they differ on other liturgical prayers, music, e.g. their understanding of christ as both god and man.

Bill DeHaas, many thanks for your illuminating and expert commentary. I think you have a deep sense of the values at stake.I agree that the episcopal conferences have sold out to the Vatican, exhausted by the strong pushiness of the Curia. In South Africa, faced with a tsunami of rage, the bishops said: "Don't blame us, blame the Vatican." This is another variant of the "pass the buck" syndrome insightfully noted by Susan Gannon.Some bishops may think that it will be the Vatican that has egg on its face when this farce goes through. I think they underestimate the rage people will feel against themselves. "I hate you, hierarchy" will be a sentiment felt far beyond South Africa. The only way they can save the situation now is by reversing their compliance at their next meeting in November. For most bishops this would feel like open revolt against Rome, something unthinkable, that that is also how Rome would see it. Maybe they could come up with a diplomatic delaying tactic -- hold out just long enough for Benedict XVI to be gone.

"Maybe they could come up with a diplomatic delaying tactic hold out just long enough for Benedict XVI to be gone."Funny -- that's how some of us feel about the Boomers. =p

I hasten to say that I mean "gone from the Papal Throne" -- may he enjoy a long and happy retirement in his beloved Bavaria.The idea that these bishops, carefully chosen by Rome for their absolute docility, would mount a resistance even to the degree of using delaying tactics is perhaps wishful thinking. But they must fear equally the brunt of public rage, of which they've already had a taste. And in fact their refusal to go on with this translation farce would be loyal service to the Vatican, saving it from embarrassing itself yet again. A true enemy of Rome would pray that the translation project woud go ahead, because of its potential to breed revolutionary discontent.

Angus Dei -- Scottish inculturated translation?Is the Mass now supposed to be a language school?

Bill deHaas --Thanks for you very informative posts, especially your letter to the editor. What a mess this all is. So far as I can see, the new trsmslations will make *everbody* unhappy.I think we need to do some creative thinking about how to change the Curia. Sigh.

Bill D., I agree with the substance of your posts, and with your assessment of the gravity of the issues. We are getting a lot of spin-doctoring in order to press these new translations on us as a great new thing, and many essential facts are being ignored in the process. I am glad you are taking these issues on with your diocesan paper and I wish you luck. Just for the record, however, I'd like to mention that neither Comme le Prevoit nor Liturgiam Authenticam is a motu proprio. They are instructions. The latter, Liturgiam Authenticam, is the fifth instruction on the right implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium.