The Jesuit run America Magazine has an article by Paul Philibert, O.P. about the “pro multis” issue.
A Dominican writing for Jesuits about liturgy. Hmmmm.
I have written about this issue quite a few times. Let’s see what Fr. Philibert has to say with my emphases and comments.
Over the past 37 years, English-speaking Catholics became accustomed to hearing a particular translation of the Latin text for the eucharistic prayer [consecration of the Precious Blood]: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all men so that sins may be forgiven.” [Being “accustomed” to something isn’t an auspicious start. Catholics were accustomed to the pre-Conciliar form of Holy Mass, too. People are “accustomed” to their vices as well.]
Since 1985, the word men has been omitted, but never the word all. [The word “homines” can be translated more generically to indicate both sexes. On the other hand, “all“, however, has its own content of meaning.] Now, however, as many bishops are mandating liturgy workshops to prepare their clergy to use the new third typical edition of the Roman Missal, formerly referred to as the Sacramentary, [which in Latin has for centuries been known as the Missale Romanum and not Sacramentarium…] priests are being [note the word choice here…] commanded to replace the word all. Among the many infelicities that the new English text, slated to become normative in Advent 2011, holds in store for Catholics is the replacement of the translation of the Latin “pro vobis et pro multis” that we have known since 1973 as “for you and for all [men]” with the newly proposed “for you and for many.”
Why is this happening?
I recently returned from an international meeting (the general chapter of the Order of Preachers) in Rome, where the Eucharist was celebrated in the many languages of the participants. [Latin might have brought them together as one group even better, but I digress.] I was particularly interested to note how the phrase “pro multis” was rendered. What I discovered, in brief, is that in German, the Eucharistic prayer says “for you and for all” (“für euch und für alle”); [That must change, of course, in their new translation.] in Spanish the text is “for you and for all men” (“por vosotros y por todos los hombres”); [ditto] in Italian the text is “for you and for all” (“per voi e per tutti”); [ditto] and in French the text is “for you and for the multitude” (“pour vous et pour la multitude”), [Which is actually a good rendering of “multis”, since it implies a vast number of souls while not stating that it is every soul who ever lived.] which evokes the great multitude of the apocalypse in Rv 7:9 and 19:6. [Watch this. You would expect better argumentation from a Dominican…] In none of these translations of the Latin “pro multis” is there the implication, unmistakable in the proposed English translation “for many,” of a less-than-universal divine will for salvation in the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. [Nice claim. I wonder if he is right. When the vernacular translations first came out, there was enough concern that “all” did in fact imply the universal salvation so that the Congregation treated the issue twice in Notitiae. In their treatment the Congregation admitted that, yes, “all” could be interpreted as being universal, but ended with the argument, that surely Catholics don’t believe that. Well… go to a funeral as celebrated in most parishes these days and check to see of that is the case or not. I think we simply have to counter the writer’s statement with, “Piffle. Many people think that is exactly what “all” implies. Gratis asseritur gratis negatur.] These translations, of course, were all made before the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam was issued in 2001 by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship.
Still, as recently as September 2010, the German bishops’ conference rejected the Roman request for a new translation. [I refer the reverend writer to Apostolos suos. Ultimately, the German bishops’ conference has control over their Chinese take-out orders between sessions. It cannot tell Rome that it won’t do what Liturgiam authenticam says or what the Roman Pontiff has decreed for the translation of forms of sacraments. Reminder: Only the Pope has the authority to determine what the translations of forms of sacraments. Review AAS 66 (1974) 98-99. This is what Pope Benedict did. He directed the CDW to inform all bishops conferences that the translation of “pro multis” must be “for many” or its equivalent.] The conference explained that the present sacramentary was widely accepted by both priests and faithful—a fact of great merit—and that this reception must not be jeopardized by replacing “good German texts” with “unfamiliar new interpretations.” [Here we see his argument at the top of the piece. This is what people are used to. There was great concern for what people were used to in the 1960’s, wasn’t there. The writer’s argument is what Card. George once called “a “Lefevbrism of the Left”.]
Because the Latin language does not have articles, the phrase “pro multis” can be translated either as “for the many” or “for many.” In English, without the article, many is restrictive rather than universal, suggesting some—perhaps a handful, perhaps thousands, but certainly not a majority nor the totality of human beings. [Hmmm… I think the writer has made another empty claim here. I can think of some contexts in which many can imply the totality, just as it can imply the majority.]
In talking about the new Missal, many [!] U.S. bishops have expressed the opinion that a literally exact translation of the Latin text will restore the depth of meaning of the Mass text. Really? [Yes, really. They have in fact expressed that opinion.] In this case, [Here we go!] a slavishly literal translation of the Latin looks very much like the kind of mistake that a Latin teacher would correct in the work of a high school student learning the ancient language. “Don’t be afraid to add the definite article if the words don’t make sense otherwise,” the teacher might well say. [Again, we see some pretty sloppy thought. The writer moves from “literally exact” to “slavishly literal”. Which is it going to be?]
The words do not make sense. [He seems still to be talking about “for many” instead of “for all”.] They run contrary to the church’s constant tradition of the universal salvific will of Christ. [No, actually, they don’t. They imply that not all will avail themselves of what Christ did for all. Many will. Not all.] This has been expressed with perfect clarity in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 605), which reads:
[Jesus] affirms that he came to “give his life as a ransom for many”; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men [sic] without exception: “There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.”
There is no ambiguity in this explanation (and several similar texts might be cited from the Catechism). On the contrary, the need for such an explanation raises the alarm that the new Missal’s translation of “pro multis” as “for many” is simply too narrow theologically and would require a similar explanation. [Hang on… isn’t the writer a member of the Order of Preachers? Isn’t it their job to preach and to teach? Why should “explanations” be in any way a problem? Furthermore, the writer might have taken a few more steps, beyond the Catechism of the Catholic Church to dig around for greater understanding of the problem at hand. For example… We read in the 1566 Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent (which is not wrong, by the way) that:
But the words which are added for you and for many (pro vobis et pro multis), were taken some of them from Matthew (26: 28) and some from Luke (22: 20) which however Holy Church, instructed by the Spirit of God, joined together. They serve to make clear the fruit and the benefit of the Passion. For if we examine its value (virtutem), it will have to be admitted that Blood was poured out by the Savior for the salvation of all (pro omnium salute sanguinem a Salvatore effusum esse); but if we ponder the fruit which men (homines) will obtain from it, we easily understand that its benefit comes not to all, but only to many (non ad omnes, sed ad multos tantum eam utilitatem pervenisse). Therefore when He said pro vobis, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen (delectos) from the people of the Jews such as the disciples were, Judas excepted, with whom He was then speaking. But when He added pro multis He wanted that there be understood the rest of those chosen (electos) from the Jews or from the gentiles. Rightly therefore did it happen that for all (pro universis) were not said, since at this point the discourse was only about the fruits of the Passion which bears the fruit of salvation only for the elect (delectis). And this is what the words of the Apostle aim at: Christ was offered up once in order to remove the sins of many (ad multorum exhaurienda peccata – Heb 9:28); and what according to John the Lord says: I pray for them; I do not pray for the world, but for those whom you gave to Me, for they are Yours (John 17:9). Many other mysteries (plurima mysteria) lie hidden in the words of this consecration, which pastors, God helping, will easily come to comprehend for themselves by constant meditation upon divine things and by diligent study. (My translation and emphases. Part II, ch. 4 (264.7-265.14) from the Catechismus Romanus seu Catechsimus ex decreto Concilii Tridentini ad parochos …. Editio critica. Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1989, p. 250. Cf. The Catechism of the Council of Trent. Trans. John A. McHugh & Charles J. Callan. Joseph F. Wagner, Inc.: New York, 1934, pp. 227-28.)
What is this all about? Effectively the Church said that she can’t say “for all” in the consecration of the Precious Blood. And it explains why pretty clearly.]
Without one, [and explanation] the ecclesiological overtones of “for many” mirror [And here, friends, we see the writer nail his colors to the mast…] a growing tendency among “restorationists” to reinvent the church as a faithful remnant of those untouched by the ravages of secularization and cultural change — those, in other words, who are perfectly comfortable in a pre-Vatican II world, preoccupied with its own sanctity and well-being. [I believe the writer may have forgotten that it was BENEDICT XVI who made the determination that “pro multis” will be “for many”. In the meantime, is he not pre-occupied with his own sanctity? Furthermore, is it fair to characterize the pre-Vatican II view with being preoccupied with its “own well-being”? That was the age in which the great missionary work was done, schools and hospitals were build etc. Now those schools are used for an indifferent presentation of the Catholic faith and not a few “Catholic” hospitals provide abortions: the ultimate violation of social justice.] This runs counter, however, to the ecclesiology of the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” of Vatican II as expressed in its first statement of principle: “Christ is the light of the nations…and desires to bring to all humanity the light of Christ…. since the Church…is a sacrament—a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race…” (No. 1). [The writer has created a rupture between the ecclesiology of the Church before the Council and the ecclesiology of the Church after the Council. Enough said. Also, I believe the English translation of the Eastern Catholic Divine Liturgy have “for many”.]
In the May 1970 issue of Notitiae, the official periodical of the Vatican’s Congregation for Worship, the eminent Jesuit biblical scholar Max Zerwick gave an exegetical explanation for translating a Hebrew text that underlies Jesus’ words as “for all” [Gee… I wonder where he got that reference. I referred to it above, but in passing. Let’s see how he misreads it…]:
Pro multis seems to have been used by Jesus himself. [Zerwick and the writer’s first mistake. This is nothing but a guess based on the work of the Lutheran Joachim Jeremias who purposely set out to find an interpretation of the Greek which he had already predetermined.] This is so because calling to mind the Suffering Servant who sacrifices himself, as in Isaiah, it is suggested that Jesus himself would fulfill what was foretold about the Servant of the Lord. The principal text in question is Isaiah 53:11b-12: “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.”… [At this point, you can usefully spend your time humming a tune, or something.]
Therefore the formula pro multis [for many] instead of pro omnibus [for all] in our texts (Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28; Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28) seems to be due to the intended allusion to the Suffering Servant whose work Jesus carried out by his death….
The Semitic mind of the Bible could see that universality connoted in the phrase “for many.” In fact that connotation was certainly there because of the theological context. Yet, however eloquent it was for ancient peoples, today that allusion to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is clear only to experts. [Frankly, I thought St. Jerome got it right. Even if Zerwick were right, in parroting Jeremias (cf. Theologisches Woerterbuch zum Neuen Testament, vol. VI, 540.36-54.25), who got it wrong, that argument still wouldn’t be relevant. We are not dealing here with translation of Holy Scripture. This is liturgical translation. Joseph Ratzinger confronts this very issue of “pro multis” in God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, The Heart of Life (Ignatius Press, 2003). He makes three points (pp. 37-8, n. 10): 1) Jesus died to save all and to deny that is not in any way a Christian attitude, 2) God lovingly leaves people free to reject salvation and some do, and 3):
“The fact that in Hebrew the expression “many” would mean the same thing as “all” is not relevant to the question under consideration inasmuch as it is a question of translating, not a Hebrew text here, but a Latin text (from the Roman Liturgy), which is directly related to a Greek text (the New Testament). The institution narratives in the New Testament are by no means simply a translation (still less, a mistaken translation) of Isaiah; rather, they constitute an independent source” (emphasis added).
To recap: Translation of liturgical texts is not the same as translation of scriptural texts. Liturgical constitute their own theological locus and they must be respected as such.]
The new English translation of the liturgical texts, which some claim to be more accurate and more faithful, [Yes, indeed… some claim that. I claim that. Would the writer like to review with me some lame-duck ICEL texts side by side with the Latin?] is in fact expressed in English that is stilted, verbose and (as in the present case) theologically inadequate. [We have pretty much beaten the writer’s theological argument into the dust. But when it comes to the issue of style we may have some common ground.] What is lost especially is the matter of evangelization. The celebration of Sunday Mass is the most effective vehicle of evangelization for the greatest number of people. [Hmmm… is this a utilitarian argument?] In many people’s lives, it is the one chance the church has to reach them and to awaken their faith. Do church leaders want to signal that the grace of Christ is available only to the regular, traditional churchgoer? Is their intention to leave out the rest? [What is this? A high school essay?] More and more it looks as if the covert message [Oooooo!] beneath the written text is one of effective exclusion rather than antecedent inclusion of all humanity in God’s will for salvation. [Sorry, that’s just plain unworthy.]
In general, the new Missal’s language is of no help here. At a conference held in Raleigh, N.C., last October, the St. Mary of the Lake workshop presenters offered as an example of a supposedly significant improvement in the translation of the Mass the following Collect (for Dec. 17):
Filled with the divine gift, Almighty God, we beg you to grant our desire that, enkindled by your Spirit, we may blaze like bright torches before the face of your Christ when he comes.
[That’s not the Collect for 17 December. I think our writer meat the Post Communion. So much for that. Still…
Here’s the Latin:
Divino munere satiati, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
hoc desiderio potiamur, ut, a tuo accensi Spiritus,
ante conspectum venientis Christi tui,
velut clara luminaria fulgeamus.
Here is the LAME-DUCK VERSION:
God our Father,
as you nouish us with the food of life,
give us also your Spirit,
so that we may be radiant with his light
at the coming of Christ your Son.
You decide. I agree that the corrected version leaves a lot to be desired. But it is better than the Lame-Duck version we have been using. I would like to see a better corrected version than that, however.]
The Latin teacher mentioned above might well say to the translator, “Come on now, you can do better than that. Who talks like that?” Well, it appears we all will have to in a matter of months. Unless…
[Having nailed his colors to the mast earlier – he doesn’t like Pope Benedict and he embraces a hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity – he is now advocating disobedience to proper ecclesiastical authority. That is what I read in his ellipsis.]
Examples of the coming changes to the Roman Missal are available from the U.S. bishops’ conference. For more on America’s coverage of the controversy click here.
Paul Philibert, O.P., is the promoter of permanent formation for the Southern Province of the Dominicans in the United States.
Let’s sum up.
He argues that people are used to the lame-duck translation, and therefore we shouldn’t change it. That is “Lefebvrism of the the Left”. People are used to vices. People were used to the way the Mass was before the Council. None of that made a difference back then. The translation of “pro multis” was simply wrong. It had to be changed.
He argues from the same old tired arguments about Scripture and from guesses about what Jesus really said. Fail. Translation of liturgy is not the same as translation of Scripture.
He doesn’t deal with the Church’s previous explanations of why the Church says “pro multis” and not “pro omnibus” during the consecration.
He accuses Pope Benedict of a pre-Conciliar mentality, actually being against the Second Vatican Council’s ecclesiology and he suggests that Pope Benedict doesn’t care about “evangelization”.
He seems to be daunted by the possibility that he may have to explain what this means.
He suggests disobedience.