A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


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.


Commenting Guidelines

I do not believe you have studied the new translations. You rehearse the talking points of those who rejected Trautman's very correct analyses first time round, oblivious of the pastoral disaster that looms. Catholics in South Africa were outraged by the new translations; not a single voice in support of them! The new translation is insipid, graceless, rhythmless, and incorrect in places, or rather generally incorrect because based on a false theory of how translation works. Its authors have an uncertain grasp of both Latin and English.

Here is an average piece of the new version:(Asterisks note problems) It is *truly right to give you thanks, truly *just to give you glory, Father, most holy, for you are the one God living and true, existing before all ages and *abide for all eternity, dwelling in unapproachable light; *yet you, who alone are good, the source of life, have made all that is, so that you might fill your creatures with blessings and bring joy to *many of them by the *glory of your light. And so, in your presence *are countless hosts of angels, who serve you day and night and, gazing upon the *glory of your face, *glorify you without ceasing. With them we too *confess your name *in exultation, *giving voice to every creature under heaven as we sing (say):The Latin original is fine: Vere dignum est tibi gratias agere, vere iustum est te glorificare, Pater sancte, quia unus es Deus vivus et verus, qui es ante saecula et permanes in aeternum, inaccessibilem lucem inhabitans; sed et qui unus bonus atque fons vitae cuncta fecsti, ut creaturas tuas benedictionibus adimpleres multasque laetificares tui luminis claritate.

Does anyone else out there feel a little uncomfortable with the good bishops remarks about the average Catholic?Yes.I'm also struck by this notion that the mass is a didactic exercise. The Orthodox certainly do not view liturgy in this way.The new translation does seem a little clunky in spots. On the other hand, it is generally a more literally accurate translation, and there is something to be said for accuracy. Some of the existing ICEL translations of the fixed prayers take...considerable liberties, to put it delicately.

The present translations are not inaccurate -- the reasoning behind all translations choices in the Roman Canon were explains in a booklet on the subject published by the translators. The new translations, in contrast, seem to have no rationale at all except a spurious literalism. Look at the asterisks in the sample I gave above. "Truly just" may sound like a literally accurate of "vere iustum", but a more correct translation would be "indeed right". The whole translation is vitiated by this sort of literalism, which would be corrected by Latin teachers reading schoolboy compositions. This is major incompetence, not just a little harmless clunkiness. And even if it were mere clunkiness, there would be not excuse for that either. The Vatican have spurned good proposals for improving our texts, but they have jumped this shoddy and hasty exercise on the whole church with nothing like due reflection.

CORRECTION: The present translations are not inaccurate the reasoning behind all translation choices in the Roman Canon were explained in a booklet on the subject published by the translators.

By the way, Trautman does not reduce the liturgy to a didactic exercise. Nor does Vatican II, which he quotes on this point.I know that most people do not understand many words that literati use -- for instance, a friend asked me to explain "colloquy" and "indubitable". A translatioin that for no functional reason is larded with words that are not in colloquial circulation and that moreover are used without any sense of literary resonance is just a committee mishmash, not a real translation at all.

It is the document Liturgiam Authenticam that describes the hoped-for development of a "sacred style" of vernacular language (paragraph 27). Bishop Trautman is objecting to the basic principle that it's right to give us English texts that are difficult to understand - especially from proclamation rather than reading, grammatically questionable, and awkward to English-speaking people. LA insists we will get used to it - and then it will be OK because we will recognize it as "sacred style" that is different from normal speech. I would prefer beautiful, graceful speech that sounds like English.Also, I think making the comparison between the texts we are currently using and the new translations is unfair to the work ICEL has done. Many years went into the translation of the second edition of the missal, which we never got the chance to hear, despite approval by the English-speaking bishops. That translation addresses many of the concerns we have with the first edition, without falling into the difficulties of the translations written since LA.

Greg, You are taking the bishop too seriously. If it is not a play on word he certainly is ridiculing the notion that obscurity is sacred rather than plain english or vernacular. And there is a lot of elitism in both conservative and liberal Catholicisim.

Gosh Joseph, why don't you tell us how you really feel? ; )Seriously though, I have read the new translation and think that, even with all the "big words" some folks worry about, the average guy will be able to understand it just fine. In any case, it is hard to imagine how much plainer we Amercians can make English. Sure the new translation is a change, but it is not the end of the world. Moreover, the average guy is not as thick as some imagine him to be.Regarding the missal, it is probably best not to dumb things down.

The notion that complex grammar and long words are the best way to convey "elevated" or "sacred" thoughts bespeaks -- oh, I don't know -- a juvenile notion of what those concepts are.English poets from (and really, before) Chaucer to Keats to Hopkins and including Yeats and sometimes Eliot, have been able to marshall original English words to elevated effect. Someone who needs to rely on French and Latin cognates to convey a sense of the sacred, managing at the same time to more than double the number of commas and semicolons in the translated passage, is not a master of English, even if his knowledge of Latin vocabulary is flawless.

"Seriously though, I have read the new translation and think that, even with all the big words some folks worry about, the average guy will be able to understand it just fine. "As a bishop, whose responsibility is pastoral communication, you might think twice about that. But my objection, as a professor of English Literature. is not this one (the passage I quoted is not difficult to understand) but rather the sheer ugliness and gracelessness of the proposed new translations. Many defenders of them either have no literary sense, or consider that literary quality is unimportant, or believe that it is good for us to use ugly prayers. I think that beautiful prayers are an aid to lifting the soul and that crass and gross language is a hindrance. I pray the Mass better in Latin or French than in the current English translations; if the threatened new translations are imposed I fear many people will no longer be able to pray the Mass at all. As things stand it is very hard to pray our sawdust collects, secrets and postcommunions (the proposed new translation may improve on these). With the new translation it will be very hard to pray the Eucharistic Prayer itself. Bishop Trautman is thus correct to warn of a grave pastoral crisis.

The English language is a great resource for prayer, as we know from reading Herbert, Hopkins, Eliot. The Vatican spurns this resource and prefers ideologically driven committees (the chief figure behind all this was. I believe, a Chilean bishop close to Pinochet; one of the current advocate is George Pell).

I'm not ready to quarrel for a word like "ignominy," but shouldn't words like consubstantial, incarnate, and oblation be part of our common Catholic vocabulary? That actually seems like a rather low bar to me.

About unintelligible langusge--It isn't true that good language must be entirely intelligible. Even illiterate cultures sometimes have a "sacred" language which is used in religious ceremoniesz *Saying* something is not its whole pirpose. Its extremely important function is to invoke the presence of a deityband confirm the assembly s consciousness of that presence. ("Numinous" would be a good word to use to describe it.) In the old Catholic rite Latin served this function beautifully -- not being fully understood by anyone it conveyed a recognition that some things are beyond us all, some things are even transcendent, but in the Words of the Consecration we are msde aware that He is also physically present among us.But what such language gains in the expression of mystery it forfeits in ordinary intelligibility. Still most of us, I think, want some of what is beyond us. No doubt this is why Pres. Kennedy didntt hesitate to use an occassional "big word". But it can be over done.

I must say I agree with Fr. O'Leary and the Bishop - I saw far too much semantics in management speak and there's far too much semantics in the propaganda talking points in politics and culture hitting folks today. I beleive plainspeak is the best way to enhance communication on matters important!I wonder what speech Mr. Wolfe considers "elitist" if any.I do not think polysyllables necessarily enhamnce one's view of the sacred and in fact may do the opposite .Finaly, as in several recent threads here, I congratulate Commonweal for including in the new print issue (arrived yesterday) of Fr."Nonomen" -a pastoral voice often lackling in the intellectualizations here( In fact, I think more balance is needed in that direction and we should hear more voices from religious women.)We certainly hav eenough of the two sides of the "conservative"/"liberal" kinid of discussion.

Translators confuse vernacular with colloqial. English is the vernacular, but there are differnt levels suitable to different occasions. levels, and I do not see why it has to be colloquial to the point of being dumbed-down.We are constantluy told we have the best-educated Catholic laity ever. But they can't understand words like "incarnate"?As to the literary quality: it couldn't be worse than our current Hallmark cards translation.But it would be good to have professional translators who can get peopel to pay for their translations to go over it.

This is a consistent theme with Trautmann: that "Joe and Mary Catholic" are too dumb to understand the word "ineffable." It is terrifically insulting. As Lee points out, in some areas, the bishops like to say the laity are the most well-educated laity ever. But we can't grasp elevated language.

I see several problems with the above excerpt: the first is the use of the word unapproachable, which is a real dud and I don't think the best way to convey the Latin -- I think "unfathomable," or even "inscrutable" might serve better, as either conveys a sense of mystery and awe, rather than, simply, distance. Incomprehensible isn't any more musical, but I think still more accurate. The second is the overuse of variants of the word glory. In the last sentence "glory of your light" is simply wrong -- I think what is intended is the concept that our lives are filled with joy and blessings as a result of being illuminated or clarified by God's light, but "glory" doesn't describe light. The original uses a version of clarify or clarity. So God's light, though mysterious and unknowable nonetheless transforms and clarifies our life with joy and blessings. That's the gist. Did you get that from the excerpt?The third is the use of punctuation and the adverb "truly" to provide emphasis that totally breaks any rhythm or flow that the passage had in the original. Literally, more than twice as many commas. The truly is to provide emphasis but we don't speak like that, and the word "indeed" or "always" would be a better English equivalent.

Wow - who would have thought Pinochet would be involved - Ha, ha!:)

I mean, after he managed to save poor Chile from the Communists; how did he find the time?

Yes, the distinction between the vernacular and the sacred is a false distinction (which is why it was decided at Vatican II that there was no good reason to prohibit Mass in the vernacular: Latin prayers, private or liturgical, were not holier than English prayers). The distinction Bishop Trautman seems to want to make is between the demotic and the sacred, and there is nothing in the documents of Vatican II, or in the examples of Herbert, Eliot, and Hopkins, to support the claim that translators should always favor the demotic or steer clear of any word--long or short--that not everybody uses in coversation. Intelligibility is important. So is precision. So is elegance of expression. It is a mistake to advocate one of these principles and forget the others. It is also a mistake to imagine that there is no tension between them--to imagine that whatever is intelligible is as elegant or precise as it needs to be.

"As to the literary quality: it couldnt be worse than our current Hallmark cards translation.But it would be good to have professional translators who can get peopel to pay for their translations to go over it."The fact that it so clearly needs to be "gone over" -- the excerpt I posted even contains a serious error of punctuation -- shows that this translation is totally unready for public consumption.And yes, it is worse than our present flat translations. It has of course no literary quality at all, but unlike our present translations it does not even meet entry-level requirements as a usable prayer text.

Mr. Wolfe - suggest that you are nitpicking and miss some of the much bigger historical picture and issues that are at stake in this change. Yes, Bishop Trautman may be frustrated in his language but it reveals the depth of his pastoral sense and passion for the whole people of God. Yes, would agree that some of these "big" words are part of our liturgical and theological history and folks do know and recognize them. But, there is always a but.......You, like many, want to start this discussion with LA and after 2000 ignoring 45 years of work on the direction of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Il Comme Prevoit, etc. It is a luxury to be able to just pick and choose when we want to interpret liturgical development in order to substantiate our position.Allow me to suggest starting with a much bigger and complex picture; here is an excellent document that points out the issues at stake:: most scriptural and liturgical experts agree that this revision is based on using latin translations that are not close to the original scriptures; the latin originals used are translations themselves. This move is described by some as what they tried last century with the Knox bible - a "perfect translation" that would stand the test of time forever. Oh yeah, no one uses that bible anymore- ecclesiological standpoint - Vatican II set up liturgical changes via national bishops conferences - english speaking set up ICEL (implemented collegiality & subsidiarity). Most would agree that initial efforts could be improved. If you have ever read the 1998 proposed missal, you would find excellent liturgical, scriptural, and pastoral translations that are uplifting, poetic, and true to the linguistic patterns of the people. Since 2000, you have a small minority making liturgical decisions in secret and forcing bishops conferences to just approve (back to papal centralization, end of collegiality/subsidiarity). The "new" ICEL/Vox Clara set up in 2003 did not even have native english speakers (appointed now by CDW not the bishops conferences - appointments come from CDW and are in secret) - led by Medina and a Benedictine who lost out to Weakland in the abbot general vote years before (suggest that this tells us a lot - Benedictines are noted for their liturgical efforts and Weakland especially - per second hand reports, his colleague was appointed much later to balance the liberal/conservative curia mixture)Note that Medina (like Williamson of SSPX) comes from Argentia and was a reactionary defender of Pinochet (yes, Ken, this is important to note); later involvement came from Arinze (notice that he is slowly dropping from view and his views are seen as more Roman than Rome as noted by some of his African colleagues at the recently closed Synod on Africa); Rinth (who also has been banished from Rome - even his curia buddies had had enough of his arrogance).The english speaking members of the new ICEL included an appointment from Pell, a conservative from UK, one from Canada (oh yes, the recently indicted archbishop with child pornography); and a US bishop, Seratelli, who died a few weeks ago.- pastoral......supposedly, this new translation is to address the "vertical" and more spiritual aspects that some feel has caused catholics to leave the church (this is an undocumented assumption at best). - given the current pending outreach to the TAC and SSPX based on allowing them their own liturgies via a papal ordiniate - what does that say about the our own need to continue to develop our own liturgies rather than be forced into change by a minority. It appears to be disingeneous at best- this whole change back to rigid latin translations reminds me of the Eastern Patriarch at Vatican II who refused to speak in latin on the floor stating that latin is not the language of the whole church. We might want to pay attention to that- if you have paid attention to speaches at the recent Synod for Africa - there were numerous requests for more encultruation; not a return to latinized language.- in Dallas, the local diocesan paper has had three weeks straight columns introducing the new USCCB website link to the new Roman Missal. I have responded every week because of the partial and inaccuracies in these columns; their own way of interpreting history and liturgy meaning skipping over those parts that don't fit their explanation.- most say that the "new" ICEL, once the english missal is finalized, will then move on to other language conferences. In fact, spanish is a major challenge given that these conferences do not even have an agreed upon lectionary because the various spanish dialects, etc. have resulted in multiple translations. Wonder if this will not eventually result in a 21st century version of the 19th century "Chinese Rites" argument. We know what the result of that slavish attention to a Tridentine liturgy did to the future of catholicism in China.Finally, on a personal note - have not heard one pastor state any type of positive reaction to this new Roman Missal. They see it as a burden; one more thing that damages their credibility and takes energy/effort away from more important church issues. My parents are in their 80's, hard of hearing, and think this pending change is a takes from them a liturgy that they have used for 40+ years; know by heart and are comfortable with. This makes no pastoral sense.

I teach Latin every day. I love Latin! In fact, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin every day. But I have to agree with Bishop Trautman. A slavish, literal translation of the Latin liturgical texts does not always accurately convey the true intended meaning of the text. And I don't think that Bishop Trautman in any way means to demain the "average" Catholic, but I think he is concerned about how an overly literal translation of the Latin is not expressing the meaning of the prayer in a vernacular idiom.

Please read the entirety of Bp Trautman's remarks as reported -- the question of recondite diction is only a small part of his critique, which is justified in all its parts.Here is the rest of the NCR report:Trautman took note of sentences in the new missal that he said run 66, 70 and 83 words, declaring that they were "unproclaimable" by the speaker and "incomprehensible" to the hearer."American Catholics have every right to expect the translation of the new missal to follow the rules for English grammar. The prefaces of the new missal, however, violate English syntax in a most egregious way," Trautman said, citing some examples in his remarks."The translators have slavishly transposed a Latin 'qui' clause into English without respecting English sentence word order," he added. The bishop also pointed out subordinate clauses from the missal that are "represented as a sentence," and sentences lacking a subject and predicate.Trautman also questioned the use of "I believe" in the retranslated version of the Nicene Creed, "even though the original and official Nicene Creed promulgated by the first Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325 said 'we believe' in both the Greek and Latin versions."Since this is a creedal prayer recited by the entire assembly in unison, the use of 'we' emphasized the unity of the assembly in praying this together as one body. Changing the plural form of 'we' to 'I' in the Nicene Creed goes against all ecumenical agreements regarding common prayer texts," he said.The bishop complained about the lack of "pastoral style" in the new translation. The current wording in Eucharistic Prayer 3 asks God to "welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters," which he considered "inspiring, hope-filled, consoling, memorable."The new translation asks God to "give kind admittance to your kingdom," which Trautman called "a dull lackluster expression which reminds one of a ticket-taker at the door. ... The first text reflects a pleading, passionate heart and the latter text a formality -- cold and insipid."Trautman quoted the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which said rites and texts "should radiate a noble simplicity. They should be short, clear, free from useless repetition. They should be within the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.""Why are these conciliar directives not implemented in the new missal?" he asked. They are "especially" relevant, Trautman added, to "the people of the third millennium: children, teenagers, adults, those with varying degrees of education, and those with English as a second language."He acknowledged that "there are those who disagree with the way the liturgical reform of Vatican II was interpreted and implemented" and who maintained that "a reform of the reform" was necessary to stem what they saw as "diminishing religiosity [and] declining Mass attendance" tied to the Mass texts.But while "the Latin text is the official, authoritative text," Trautman said, "the Latin text is not inspired. It is a human text, reflecting a certain mindset, theology and world view."As a consequence, "a major and radical change" and "a major pastoral, catechetical problem erupts" in the new missal during the words of consecration, which say that the blood of Christ "will be poured out for you and for many," instead of "for all," as is currently the practice."For whom did Jesus not die?" Trautman asked. "In 1974 the Holy See itself had approved our present words of institution [consecration] as an accurate, orthodox translation of the Latin phrase 'pro multis,'" he added. "It is a doctrine of our Catholic faith that Jesus died on the cross for all people."Trautman took issue with a 2006 letter to bishops by Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze, then head of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, which said that "salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one's own willing or participation.""I respond that Jesus died even for those who reject his grace. He died for all," Trautman said."Why do we now have a reversal? The Aramaic and Latin texts have not changed. The scriptural arguments have not changed, but the insistence on literal translation has changed."Trautman hearkened back to Msgr. McManus, whom he called "an apostle of the liturgical renewal.""If Msgr. McManus were with us today, he would call us to fidelity to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and encourage us to produce a translation of the missal that is accurate, inspiring, referent, proclaimable, understandable, pastoral in every sense -- a text that raises our minds and hearts to God."

The text quoted above is translated as follows in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:"It is truly right to glorify you, Father, and to give you thanks; for you alone are God, living and true, dwelling in light inaccessible from before time and for ever."Countless throngs of angels stand before you to serve you night and day; and beholding the glory of your presence, they offer to you unceasing praise. Joining with them, and giving voice to every creature under heaven, we acclaim you and and glorify your name as we sing (say):"

Whenever there is genuine interest in a subject a specialized vocabulary poses no problem. Non-elitist real people understand the infield fly rule in baseball, adolescents follow directions to multi-task and tweet, sitcoms employ exotic psychobabble. Why is the liturgy to be purged of any challenge?In trying to cater to, or condescendingly pander to, a mythical average Catholic devoid of learning skills, the good bishop betrays the narrowness of his education and experience. He also indirectly encourages the development of a gnostic reaction.

It is truly right to give you thanks.Truly.Just to give you glory.The final translator is the one who prays, not the one who writes the text. The goal according to V2 is full and active participation, not rote repetition of words that are not understood. The text should enable praying with comprehension and devotion.Comprehension is the route to greater mystery. Latin sealed mystery off behind a wall, rather than invite people into the presence of God. A walled off mystery is effective sometimes, but often is an easy imitation of real mystery.English has a particular problem with Latin cognates, because there are still vestiges of the courtly French of England's conquerors. It is regal language for a world of democrats, and arouses rebellion in some who hear it. And probably submission in others. These elitist tendencies are inherent, even if they are weakening after 1000 years.Then there is the perpetual problem when meaning drifts, as in: "the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus from that moment on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine. JP2 EE 15

The real question, I think, is not the vocabulary but the sound of the new translation. No one but the priest is going to see the semicolons, but everyone will hear the delay of meaning as the lengthy sentences are read. Some songs are straightforward. It's Been a Hard Day's Night has that straightforward sound. Our current liturgical "soundtrack" sounds like good-time oldies, suitable for a family barbecue, warm and friendly. Some songs are intimate and mood-making, and I think the new translation is like this. These are the kinds of songs most appropriate for the bride and groom's first dance, like Unforgettable.

I doubt there is such a thing as "sacred language". The appropriate English is "sacral language", and that will mean language using in a register suited to liturgy. The new translation tends to suppose that Latinate vocabulary is always preferable for the liturgy. This is, to say the least, debatable. To take but one example, "consubstantial" rather than "one in being" occurs in the new translation. The Latin adjective "consubstantialis" is itself a rendering of the Greek "homoousios" which means "one in being". An Anglophone audience has a chance of understanding "one in being" but is likely to take "consubstantial" to mean "one in substance", which would be an unhappy result. Why create barriers for the sake of a Latinate word likely to mislead? Pedantry? Yes, pedantry!As an example of plain mistranslation take "people of good will" for "hominibus bonae uoluntatis". The problem there is that the Latin misrepresents the sense of Luke's Greek, which is "people he (God) favors". The sense "people of good will", besides being erroneous, has the further demerit of putting the initiative on the human side.By the way both the new and the old translations get the sense of the final clause in the Lord's Prayer wrong. The Greek means "deliver us from the evil one" as, I understand, the Greek Orthodox translate it. I suppose it is embarrassing to have been wrong for so long, but honesty can be refreshing.

"In trying to cater to, or condescendingly pander to, a mythical average Catholic devoid of learning skills, the good bishop betrays the narrowness of his education and experience. He also indirectly encourages the development of a gnostic reaction."This is an outrageously unjust remark, of a type that has characterized so much of the hostility to Bp Trautman, who is simply a prophetic truth teller, or rather a man of simple common sense. Have you even read the entirety of the article quoted, or any other of Bp T's writings on this potential pastoral disaster?If Bp T is only speaking for a mythical Catholic why is there such an outpouring of support on the NCR combox. And why in South Africa was there such an outpouring of rage from ALL sectors of the Catholic community when the ghastly translations were brought prematurely into use?

The problem with "we believe" has eluded the bishop. The language "I believe" is a performative, like "I do" at a wedding or "I pledge allegiance" in the pledge. The performance must be done by each individually even though they do it simultaneously in the profession of faith. The creed is not a simply list of propositions we regard as true together with a report that we do so.

Mr. Gannon - assume that you have no background in liturgical or scriptural studies?Fr. O'Leary - you were nice enough to add the recognition of Rev. McManus - a guiding light for years starting with Vatican II and then through the original ICEL. He was brought to Vatican II as an expert by the papal secretary of state for the planning commission on the liturgy and was in the room when it was written. Later, he was appointed a periti by Paul VI for the rest of Vatican II. This little story adds to the inside politics and downright anger/double dealing that can pass for the curia: during Fr. McManus's significant contributions to Vatican II, his name was place on a list to be made monsignor by his bishop, Cardinal Cushing. The US papal nuncio, Vagnozzi, (an opponent of the liturgical changes during Vatican II) drew a line through his name and passed the list on the the pope. Weeks later in passing, Cardinal Cushing was informed of this inner move. Years later in 1980, McManus was finally given the title of monsignor by Jean Jadot. At a lunch Jadot gave him the document but McManus never had an investiture ceremony. For the rest of his life, he never used that title nor did he ever wear monsignor dress until his death in 2005.

What is needed even more than the advice of professional translators is consultation with the finest poets available. They are the ones who can produce expressions that are at the same time simple, comprehenssible, profound and inspiring. Mere translators can't do all that. Fortunately the greatest poets are often themselves translators of other poets' works.I nominate Seamus Heaney. Any other suggestions? No, he doesn't seem to be a member of the fold any longer, but he knows the tradition, and he is obviously more than qualified to re-structure those awkward, disjointed phrases and clauses in the translated paragraph above. (Awwkk! It's HIDEOUS!)As to the argument on the other side that the translators worked 45 years on one version, well, that's like saying a chef worked three hours on a souffl so it must be acceptable. Yuk.

"Mr. Gannon assume that you have no background in liturgical or scriptural studies?"This comment is inappropriate.

Just an observation - When I see churchmen like Bishop Trautman talk about "pastoral disaster" I have to wonder what they thought the translations and changes in liturgy in America that they supported all those years? He and his compatriats oversaw the watering down of liturgy, they dumbing down of catechesis, and the mass exodus of generations of Catholics and now he warns of a "pastoral disaster"?

Sean, the liturgy is better than before Vatican II. Catechesis may be another word for perpetuating empire. Catholics are growing in record numbers. The exodus has nothing to do with Vatican II but more on the restorationists and Humanaw Vitae.The reality of liturgy is that it is a way for people to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Local communities can figure it our without having to resort to empire builders to do it for them.

Are you joking Bill M? Obviously Sean makes a very good point.Oh well - when I attends the mass in Latin, I do not worry about which translation is best.I like how old WF Buckley put it (quote below - from Wikipedia). I can almost see his sly grin while making (or writing) such a remark.------------------------------------------William F. Buckleys thoughts on Catholic liturgical change (1979)As a Catholic, I have abandoned hope for the liturgy, which, in the typical American church, is as ugly and as maladroit as if it had been composed by Robert Ingersoll and H.L. Mencken for the purpose of driving people away. Incidentally, the modern liturgists are doing a remarkably good job; attendance at Catholic Mass on Sunday having dropped sharply in the 10 years since a few well-meaning cretins got hold of the power to vernacularize the Mass, and the money to scour the earth in search of the most un-musical men and women to preside over the translation.The next liturgical ceremony conducted primarily for my benefit, since I have no plans to be beatified or remarried, will be my own funeral; and it is a source of great consolation to me that, at my funeral, I shall be quite dead, and so will not need to listen to the accepted replacement for the noble old Latin liturgy. Meanwhile, I am practicing Yoga, so that, at church on Sundays, I can develop the power to tune out everything I hear, while attempting, athwart the general calisthenics, to commune with my Maker, and ask Him first to forgive me my own sins, and implore him, second, not to forgive the people who ruined the Mass."-----------------------------------

May I suggest the Sacred consubstantial with the vernacular? F.Y.I:

Still waiting to hear from our contributor about "elitism."I agree with those who say Bishop Trautman doesn't think the average Catholic is a dummy, but is at pains to say whatever maximizes their participation should be the driving force, not the personal predilectioons of those who think the Latin Tridentine text is sacral and who want to join the lurch backward to the right.

Why is it still, "Our Father who art in heaven"? It doth sound somehow strange, albeit extremely familiar to mine ear.

Mr. De Haas: I assume that you disagree with something I said. Perhaps if you would say what and why, I could respond.DavidI think there is an iron rule about not changing the Lord's Prayer. What puzzles me, among other things, is why one says: "Thy will be done (full stop) on earth as it is in heaven". Can it be that Catholics become short of breath at that point?

HmmmmHow about this to avoid elitism and and being "remote""Yo Daddy-O on Cloud 9"?

SeanYour sense of register is defective.

News flash to Bill8 out of 10 Catholics don't even know what Humanae Vitae is and 9.5 out of 10 will think you are talking about "Flip That House" if you mention restorationists.People left the Church for a lot of reasons, but I know a lot left because we didn't have a clue what the Church was and what it offered. We needed a substabntial meal and were being fed cotton candy. I know because I was one of them. A few years ago I taught a confirmation class and only 2 out of 15 kids even knew why they genuflect - they just did it. So sorry, I don't buy the idea that the changes of the 60's and 70's somehow made the Mass more meaningful.

Thank you Nancy; yours is an excellent idea, one with which it seems the Vatican has long agreed (excerpted from the link you so kindly provided):-------------------------------------------...The Mass on EWTN, which is said in the vernacular but includes some Latin, is according to the current norms. The Second Vatican Council desired the retention of Latin as the ritual language of the Roman Rite. In the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy the Council stated, 36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. 2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters. 3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether and to what extent the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.Following the Council the Roman implementing documents continued on this course.Instruction on the Liturgy, Congregation of Rites, 16 October 196459. Pastors of souls shall carefully see to it that the faithful, more particularly the members of lay religious associations, also know how to say or to sing together in the Latin language those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertains to them, especially with the use of simpler melodies.47. According to the Constitution on the Liturgy, while particular laws remain in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites." However, since "the use of the vernacular may often be of great advantage to the people" "it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority to decide whether, and to what extent, one should use the vernacular, their decrees being approvedthat is, confirmedby the Holy See." In observing these norms exactly, one will therefore employ that form of participation which best matches the capabilities of each congregation.Instruction on Music in the Sacred Liturgy, Sacred Congregation of Rites, 5 March 1967Pastors of souls should take care that besides the vernacular "the faithful also know how to say or sing, in Latin also, those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them." When the bishops asked for the entire Mass in the vernacular, Pope Paul VI granted this, but continued to insist on the people being able to pray the "ordinary parts" (that is, those that remain the same in every Mass, such as the dialogues "Dominus vobiscum" "Et cum spiritu tuo," Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei etc.) in Latin and ALSO according to the simple Gregorian chant modes. Thus,Iubilate Deo, Preface, Pope Paul VI, 14 April 1974The Bond of Unity. The Second Vatican Council in the "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" added the following reminder to its exhortation that vernacular languages should have a suitable place in liturgical celebration: It should be arranged that the faithful can say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass that belongs to them.The Supreme Pontiff Paul VI has followed this trend of thought in recent times. he has often expressed two desires: that Gregorian Chant with its pleasing melody might accompany and support the Eucharistic celebrations of the people of God; that the voices of the faithful might resound in both the Gregorian Chant and in the vernacular. ...--------------------------------------------------------

Mass should sound like this:

Ann - you need to somehow find and read the proposed new translations in the 1998 missal - they, of course, were destroyed or hidden after the moves of JPII and Medina and the destruction of ICEL, Sacrosanctum Concilium, etc via Liturgiam Authenticam.My comments were directed to the new translation of "I believe" instead of "We believe" - re-read Trautman's response to this change. Read my link to this same issue by Paul Collins.The adjective "traditional" appears frequently in the move to retranslate and is contrasted with "in the spirit of Vatican II" or the tired statements that Vatican II led to the "total" demise of catholicism - have you considered the growth of the church in Africa, India, SE Asia, South America. Vatican II did not dilute the Tradition and the Council states:Therefore following in the footsteps of the Councils of Trent and of First Vatican, this present Council wishes to set forth authentic teaching about divine revelation and about how it is handed on..., Constitution on Revelation (Dei Verbum, (DV# 1)Tradition and Vision must always be held in creative tension otherwise there is a risk of following tradition (small "t") which is not the living faith of the dead but rather the dead faith of the living (Mk 7:1-9)."Ecclesial" does not refer to a group's membership but rather to the group's motivational force or faith in Jesus Christ "... the desire to live his commandment of love and to carry out his mission by the power of the Holy Spirit in communion with the local, the diocesan and universal Church" (29:1989). This meaning of "ecclesial" is supported by the papal Exhortation of Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN #15, 60, 65) and Lumen Gentium (LG #1). "Ecclesial" has a creedal, Trinitarian perspective on community. Mission begins with the Father's work in creation and salvation. The Father sends the Son and the Son sends the Spirit who missions the Church (Mt 28:20). It is not the Church which has a mission but it is God's mission which creates and gathers the Church.Dr Clement Tierney defined the Eucharist as "the sacrament of the sacrifice of the cross in the shape of a meal". There are three elements in Tierney's definition and none of these elements can be omitted without jeopardising the traditional Catholic understanding of Eucharist. The Eucharist is (i) sacrament, (ii) sacrifice (iii) meal. Calvary was a unique sacrifice (Heb 10 especially vv 11-13). Mass is sacrament which guarantees that the sacrifice of Calvary is present and effective here and now without jeopardising the unique character of the Calvary sacrifice. The community is transformed as the there and then sacrifice of Calvary is the reality of the here and now community experience. Eucharistic Prayer III refers to the sacramental mode of the sacrifice thus:Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.This is ecclesial action as the "worship of each one here brings salvation to all" (Prayer over the Gifts: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time).Thus, throughout the liturgy we use the pronoun "we" not "I". It parallels Trautman's comments about Jesus dying for "all" not "many".

If you'll forgive the length of this: this is a long excerpt from an extremely lengthy transcription, of the US bishops' consideration of newly translated texts earlier this year. Bishop Trautman is one of the players. (This is taken from the Adoremus Bulletin website; they publish the transcripts of bishops meetings regarding liturgy).[Begin excerpt]Action Item 4 Votive Masses and Masses for the DeadBishop Serratelli: Bishops, I present to you Action Item 4, the ICEL Gray Book translation of Votive Masses and Masses for the Dead. Passage of this item requires a 2/3 vote of the Latin Church members of the United States Catholic Conference. You have at your places the Group I amendments, those accepted by the Committee on Divine Worship.Cardinal George: The committee recommends that all of the amendments in Group I be adopted. If any member desires a separate consideration of any of the amendments in Group I will he please raise his hand and call out just the identifying numbers of those amendments?Without objection, then, all of the amendments in Group I are Oh, Im sorry. Bishop Trautman. Just the number please, Bishop.Bishop Trautman: I just wanted to be clear. Are we talking about Action Item 4?Bishop Serratelli: Yes.Bishop Trautman: Okay. Divine Worship. Thats my motion, I believe, that the committee suggested improved wording.Cardinal George: So whats the number, please?Bishop Trautman: Well, its the only one; its number 1. And the text is the recommended version submitted by the committee is as follows: 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 Im speaking against the very motion that I had submitted. I appreciate what the committee has done, but I think thats 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 Trautmans amendment, but now hes 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 ? Theres only one amendment, so lets go ahead.Monsignor Malloy: I think if I understand it correctly, the body would have to decide whether we accept the fact that Bishop Trautmans 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 wed have to accept consideration of this amendment by the body. And then decide whether Bishop Trautmans modification is acceptable or not. I think wed 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 were voting on now?[Many voices: No]Monsignor Malloy: I think what were 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 Trautmans 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 its also mystical. Its 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 its part of our terminology, its part of our Scripture, its 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 whats not clear, Bishop Trautman. You dont have a suggestion; you just want to reject the committees suggestion. We can debate the committees 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 Theres nothing to vote on if we reject the committees work.Bishop William Murphy (Rockville Centre): I apologize if I confuse, which I suspect I probably will. But if Im 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]Cardinal George: So the first indication is do you want to consider this phrase, this question at all? [Voices: Yes]Okay. If thats accepted then, lets talk about the committees suggested phrase. And if thats rejected, then well have to see what we do next. Wed ask for something else on the whole text. So the floor is open to discuss the committees comment on this translation, their suggested translation. Is that right, Bishop Serratelli?Bishop Serratelli: Yes.Cardinal George: Anyone want to speak in favor or against? Okay, all those who are in favor of accepting the committees translation as given in the Group I amendment please vote 1; all those who want to reject it, please vote 2. [Pause for voting]Has everyone voted? Again, this is just the Latin-rite bishops. This is a simple majority. Cardinal Rigali, point of order?Cardinal Rigali: That was my question.Cardinal George: Okay. Close the vote, please. [The vote is shown on the screen]: Yes137; No46.So it passes. The committees version is accepted, and now we have to move to the amendments in Group Bishop Serratelli: There are no amendments in Group II.Cardinal George: So therefore you call the question, please.Bishop Serratelli: Just a reminder before I call the question. If we do not accept this now, it will come back to us in November. Therefore, being no further discussion or amendments, I move that the Latin Church members of the USCCB approve the ICEL Gray Book translation of Votive Masses and Masses for the Dead for use in the Dioceses of the United States of America.Cardinal George: 2/3 of the Latin-rite bishops have to vote for this. If you want to accept the whole text, vote 1; if you want to reject the whole text, please vote 2. [Pause for voting] May we close the vote please?In the light of the last discussion I presume that it is the will of the body, in fact we have changed the procedure, that this vote be published. So would you please put it up on the screen? [The vote:] Yes150; No30; Abstain3.So the text is not acceptable. Would you go on to the next text please? Archbishop Myers?Archbishop John Myers: Its inconclusive.Cardinal George: Im sorry I should have said that differently. Its an inconclusive vote, and it will go out in the mail as the others have.

Bishop Trautman:Since this is a creedal prayer recited by the entire assembly in unison, the use of 'we' emphasized the unity of the assembly in praying this together as one body. Changing the plural form of 'we' to 'I' in the Nicene Creed goes against all ecumenical agreements regarding common prayer texts," he said.Quite possibly the reversion to I was motivated by pedantry. Nonetheless it turned out to be right. Perhaps some have not heard of a performative utterance. The idea was developed in ordinary language philosophy, but once you think about, it is not really obscure. If someone says I solemnly swear by Almighty God ... that person is not informing anyone that he is swearing, rather she/he is performing the act of swearing. The same goes for the ordinary act of promising, in all its forms. The creedal I believe in X does not mean I believe that X exists but rather I put my faith in X, an act of faith, not an announcement that one has faith. i.e, in the jargon philosophers of language use, a performative rather than in informative utterance. One cannot perform an act of faith for anyone else. Individuals may do it in unison, but each of them is performing his own act of faith. This is not an issue of liturgy or scripture, but of the way language is used for various purposes. Nicholas Lash has a discussion of this in his collection Theology for Pilgrims.