In the Catholic Review of the Archdiocese of Baltimore comes this CNS story.
On 22 October His Excellency Most Rev. Donald W. Trautman, Bishop of Erie, gave a talk at Catholic University of American in which he ran down the new translation of the Missale Romanum.
I would like a transcript or video of the whole talk. I am sure the bishop’s remarks are interesting.
But let us work with what we have, with my emphases and comments.
Bishop criticizes ‘slavishly literal’ English translation of missal
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service
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.
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,” Bishop Trautman said. [So…each one of these words could perhaps be … what… explained? Words such as “ineffable” and “incarnate” point to metaphysical realities that need explanation. In centuries past we fought wars for this language. “Consubstantial”? This had to be explained in every century. It took tears and even blood to craft this language and pass it down. Maybe the problem is that priests and deacons need to study the Fathers…. knowing that bishops already have done so, of course.]
“The (Second Vatican Council’s) Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy stipulated vernacular language, not sacred language,” [No, Your Excellency. Sacrosanctum Concilium required the Latin language. It permitted the vernacular in limited circumstances. And are you, Your Excellency, seriously suggesting that in the sacred liturgy we should not use 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?” [Jesus never used the word “bishop” either. And what of Matthew 13? “The disciples approached him and said, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He said to them in reply, ‘Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.'”]
Bishop Trautman made his remarks in an Oct. 22 lecture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, as part of the Monsignor Frederick R. McManus Lecture Series. Monsignor McManus, a liturgist, served as a peritus, or expert, during Vatican II.
The 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. [So, this is part of Bp. Trautman’s ongoing campaign to move brother bishops to vote against the new translations.]
Bishop 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,” Bishop Trautman said, citing some examples in his remarks. [I would like to see them. Sincerely.]
“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.
Bishop 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. [There is a difference between the Creed in the liturgy and Creed in a Council. Sure, they are close to each other. They are both gatherings of statements of belief. But Creeds coming from Councils or Synods had to be signed by members of divergent theological parties as a formula of unity. That is why the conciliar or synodal Creeds start with “WE”. An ancient council is a different context than the Mass. In the liturgy, individuals – together – make personal statements of faith, as they would at their own baptism.]
“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. [Ummm… the Creed in the liturgy begins CREDO and not CREDIMUS. Latin 101. Furthermore, ecumenical agreements ring hollow if the translation is wrong. Let’s have an ecumenical agreement about the correct translation!]
The bishop complained about the lack of “pastoral style” in the new translation. [I think he means “dumber”. Am I wrong?] 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.” [That’s his opinion. Fine.]
The new translation asks God to “give kind admittance to your kingdom,” which Bishop 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.” [The Latin says: “in regnum tuum benignus admitte“. I worked on this years ago in WDTPRS, when I wrote about the Eucharistic prayers. My version was “kindly admit into your kingdom”. On this point, I therefore agree with Bp. Trautman – my “slavishly literal” version was better. I posted mine seven years ago, btw. But why should Bp. Trautman’s emotions about the present, lame-duck translation trump what the prayer really says?]
Bishop 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.” [Let’s not forget how the lame-duck ICEL version isn’t noble or simple. It is just ignobly simplistic. Beyond simplistic, it is sanitized. We need to be reminded – even through our sacral liturgical language – that religion is hard. Furthermore, I think the new texts are within their comprehension, even if not immediate. I think people are smarter than Bp. Trautman does. Still, religion and religious concepts are hard. They ought to challenge.]
“Why are these conciliar directives not implemented in the new missal?” he asked. [If Counciliar decrees are so important, why are you, Your Excellency, not therefore fighting for Gregorian chant in every parish? What about the mandate of the same Sacrosanctum Concilium that pastors of souls should make sure their flocks can both sing and speak their responses in Latin? Are we being a little selective in invoking the Council?] They are “especially” relevant, Bishop 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.” [Because… what? Those are new groups the Church? Holy Church has never seen teens or people with varying degrees of education during the first two millennia?]
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. [“those who disagree”… I think he is talking about Pope Benedict and even about Pope John Paul II.]
But while “the Latin text is the official, authoritative text,” Bishop Trautman said, “the Latin text is not inspired. It is a human text, reflecting a certain mindset, theology and world view.” [The Latin text of the Missale Romanum is not inspired in the way Holy Scripture is inspired. Granted. But it is theological locus and is entirely under the aegis of the Vicar of Christ. But if we stipulate that the Latin text is not inspired, does that mean that the vernacular text can be changed in pretty much any way the winds of change suggest? That seems to be what Bp. Trautman is arguing.]
As a consequence, “a major and radical change” and “a major pastoral, catechetical problem erupts” [It erupts now because it has been ignored for decades.] 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?” Bishop 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.” [And now the Vicar of Christ has made the determination that the words will be, in every language, “for many”. Why, Your Excellency, can’t Pope Benedict make this determination? Are you suggesting that he didn’t know what he was doing? Furthermore, the Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent has a specific paragraph about why we do not, cannot, say “for all”. Moreover, it is also a doctrine of our faith that not all will actually be saved. The Church says “pro multis” – for good reason – and all the necessary explanations have been issued repeatedly.]
Bishop 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,” Bishop Trautman said. [This is old stuff now. It is settled and the explanations have been given. The Lord without question died for all, but not all will be saved. Furthermore, “pro multis” does not, cannot, mean “for all”. That’s just plain wrong and embarrasing.]
“Why do we now have a reversal? The Aramaic and Latin texts have not changed. [LOL!] The scriptural arguments have not changed, but the insistence on literal translation has changed.” [RIGHT! The Latin text did not change. The Latin text says “pro multis“. And the Aramaic? Show us, Your Excellency, the Aramaic text of the Lord’s words. This reference to the Aramaic is pure speculation based on a philological fan dance performed by a Lutheran Scripture scholar who argued that the Greek Scriptures about the Last Supper were wrong and that he knew better. I have written on this at length. Pope Benedict is right about this: the Latin text constitutes its own theological locus and it must be respected as such. Enough.]
Bishop Trautman hearkened back to Monsignor McManus, whom he called “an apostle of the liturgical renewal.”
“If Monsignor 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.”
Religion is not easy or self-evident.
That’s why we have the preaching office. Have we forgotten that?
We have to have elevated language for that which is hard.
Words such as “ineffable” point to the nature of a mystery.
If a priest, deacon, or lay catechist could spend two minutes to explain what the word “ineffable” means that would be two minutes well spent on the people of God.
Too much to ask?
And if those priests, or deacons, or lay catechists, or the people in the pews don’t like what they hear about “ineffable” or “consubstantial”, there are loads of churches out there that don’t have complicated theology as part of their heritage.
There is plenty of Salvation Army theology out there. It isn’t hard to find.
The Orthodox are not dumbing down their liturgy. Traditional Catholics aren’t seeking more banal experiences. Anglicans fought pitched battles over liturgical language.
Let us for a moment review the Missa Trautmanensis which came up on the blog a few years ago:
Priest: Uhm, like, hey guys, we need to, you know, get started, so let’s do the cross thingy. OK, so now we’re gonna say sorry and stuff to God because, you know
what? Nobody’s perfect.
All: I’m sorry if anything I did was offensive. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. My bad.
Priest: Ok, let’s, like, talk to God now and listen to the stories in the book.
Lector: [lector reads the day’s selection] This is from that book from God.
All: Thanks God.
Cantor: Now you all are gonna repeat after me, like row row row your boat and I’ll sing some stuff from the book.
Priest: Uhm, This next part is really important so let’s everybody stand up and do the cross thingy on our heads, mouths and chest.
Hey, peace y’all.
All: Right back atcha.
[the priest reads the Gospel of the day]
Priest: Jesus did this.
All: Thanks Jesus.
Priest: [gives pastoral, easily comprehensible homily]
Priest: Hey guys, now let’s say that long thing that talks about what we think about and stuff.
All: We like God. God is cool and really nice because He made me and this whole world – which by the way – we are totally polluting and it’s getting hot. Jesus was born in a little barn and every Christmas we have a play during church but then he died. But you know what? He loves me and wants me to be happy. There’s this spirit that talks to us in a book and he makes things live. I like my church because everyone here is so nice and the priest is nice and we sing nice songs about nice stuff and later when we get old and icky, after we die, we all get to go to heaven with Jesus. He’s really cool by the way. Amen.
Priest: Now let’s pray for a bunch of stuff.
[intentions are prayed]
Priest: hey you guys in the back? Can y’all carry that basket and pitcher up here? That’d help a lot. Thanks.
Priest: Hey y’all, be peaceful and stuff.
All: You too.
Priest: Let’s pray to God and, you know.
All: yeah, that’d be nice.
Priest: You know what? Angels and stuff sing to God so let’s sing along with them.
All: Hey God.
You are way bigger than us.
You make the world happy.
We love you big guy.
Jesus liked you and he was cool.
Priest: A long time ago, at dinner, Jesus gave His friend’s some bread and wine and stuff.
Because Jesus likes us, He wants us to have bread and wine too.
God wants us to have this snack also.
And you know what?
We really like snacks so let’s tell God and Jesus and that Spirit gal thanks.
[all present themselves for communion]
Priest: (holding out a wicker basket) Uhm, like, here’s some bread for you from God.
Recipient: Yum, that’s good and nutty, is it whole grain by the way? I like it. Now where’s that dude with the vino?
Nothing about religion is easy or self-evident.
That’s why we have the preaching office or … have we forgotten that?
Thank heaven this last ditch effort is too late.
The fight over the liturgical translation is effectively over.