National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

'Slavishly literal' translation of missal criticized

 | 
Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., presents the third annual Frederick R. McManus Memorial Lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington Oct. 22. (CNS)

WASHINGTON -- Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., former chairman of the U.S. bishops' liturgy committee, sharply criticized what he called the "slavishly literal" translation into English of the new Roman Missal from the original Latin.

tHe 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.
t
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Read more: Liturgy needs not a 'sacred language' but a pastoral language
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

t"The [Second Vatican Council's] Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stipulated vernacular language, not sacred language," he added. "Did Jesus ever speak to the people of his day in words beyond their comprehension? Did Jesus ever use terms or expressions beyond his hearer's understanding?"
t
tTrautman made his remarks in an Oct. 22 lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, as part of the Msgr. Frederick R. McManus Lecture Series. Msgr. McManus, a liturgist, served as a peritus, or expert, during Vatican II.
t
tThe Roman Missal has not yet been given final approval for use in the United States. The U.S. bishops were scheduled to vote on four items pertaining to the missal at their November general meeting in Baltimore. It is expected that the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments would give its "recognitio," or approval, at some point following the U.S. bishops' vote.
t
tTrautman 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.
t
t"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.
t
t"The translators have slavishly transposed a Lain '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.
t
tTrautman 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.
t
t"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.
t
tThe 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."
t
tThe 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."
t
tTrautman 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."
t
t"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."
t
tHe 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.
t
tBut 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."
t
tAs 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.
t
t"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."
t
tTrautman 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."
t
t"I respond that Jesus died even for those who reject his grace. He died for all," Trautman said.
t
t"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."
t
tTrautman hearkened back to Msgr. McManus, whom he called "an apostle of the liturgical renewal."
t
t"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."

book-cover_arthur_web.jpgNow available! National Catholic Reporter at Fifty: The Story of the Pioneering Paper and Its Editors
Learn more

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

August 29-September 11, 2014

08-29-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.