VATICAN: No. You can’t use the 1998 English translation.

I saw this at The Pill (aka The Tablet aka RU-486), which makes it all the more enjoyable to read.

Vatican liturgy secretary rules out possibility of Catholics using 1998 Mass translation

A Vatican archbishop has ruled out the possibility of Catholics being able to use a different English translation of the Mass.
There have been growing calls for the 1998 version to be made available [Right… growing.  Tens of people have cried out for the rejected 1998 version.] as critics are unhappy with the current missal text which is judged clunky, awkward, and a too literal translation of the Latin.
The 1998 text was approved by English-speaking bishops’ conferences after 17 years of work. It was, however, rejected by the Vatican and a revised translation, introduced in November 2011, was then implemented.
But Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary to the Congregation for Divine Worship, said using a different English version of the missal could not happen.
The archbishop told The Tablet[which makes in so much better] that the Roman liturgy “expresses the unity of the entire Church” and that while the 1998 version translated the 1975 Roman Missal, a new Latin Missal was introduced in 2002 thus making the 1998 edition outdated. [It must be admitted, however, that the necessary adjustments could have been made to the 1998 version.  However, there were translation norms published in Liturgian authenticam.]
Archbishop Roche, who as Chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) oversaw the introduction of the current English Mass text, also said that “the principles governing the translation of liturgical texts of the Roman Rite had altered by 2001 which would have, in any case, required a new translation of the Roman Missal.”
He was referring to the document Liturgiam Authenticam [as I said] whch called for translations to convey the “integral manner” of the original Latin “even while being verbally or syntactically different from it.”
This week, a former chairman of ICEL said many Catholics are dissatisfied with the current Mass text and should be allowed to use the 1998 version.
The Bishop Emeritus of Galloway, Maurice Taylor, who was in charge of ICEL from 1997-2002 said: “Many people are dissatisfied and unhappy with the present translation which we have to use. Our bishops have an opportunity to remedy the situation by asking the Holy See to grant its recognitio of the 1998 translation, a text that was approved by all the English speaking bishops’ conferences which are full members of ICEL.”
He added: “A precedent for having a choice of approved translations of the Missal already exists. Those who prefer to continue with the [2011] Missal, on grounds of either taste or expense, would do so; others would opt for the 1998 translation.” [Out of curiosity, I wonder how many of those who want for the opportunity to use the 1998 version are supportive of those who want the opportunity to use the 1962 Missale Romanum.]
In The Tablet earlier this month Jesuit theologian Fr Gerald O’Collins wrote an open letter to English-speaking bishops, urging them to press for adoption of the 1998 text.

I haven’t posted this for a while.

Tabula delenda est.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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35 Responses to VATICAN: No. You can’t use the 1998 English translation.

  1. JonPatrick says:

    The solution is obvious. Don’t use any translation just use the Latin text!

    [If only we had a single language and text to unify us in prayer. Lemme think…]

  2. Charles E Flynn says:

    I wonder if Fr. Stephen Somerville will have a new video in response to the alleged clamor for the defective 1998 translation:

    Priest who Translated the New Mass Publicly REPENTS! (video: 12 min. 57 sec.)

  3. Andrew says:

    RTNP (risum tenere non possum)

  4. Nicolas Bellord says:

    I imagine that members of ACTA here in the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton will be in floods of tears. First our Bishop goes, then this! Please remember them in your prayers.

  5. Fr. Thomas Kocik says:

    Many people are dissatisfied and unhappy with the present translation…

    I don’t know about that side of the Pond, but on this side I haven’t heard a single lay person complain about the new translation. Not one. Ever.

  6. +JMJ+ says:

    Make that “elevens of people” have cried out for it…my pastor recently added his voice. :-D

  7. Clemens Romanus says:

    If you’ll indulge an Indiana Jones reference: Jesuits. Why is it always Jesuits?

  8. SimonDodd says:

    No more than a trivial residuum of early critics remain dissatisfied with the corrected translation. It is a myth that those critics are desperately trying to keep alive in the forelorn hope that the luvviest pope evuh will hear their cry and look on them with mercy.

    The simple truth is that when the change was done, there were some people who were very opposed, some who were very much in favor, and the vast majority of Catholics couldn’t have cared less either way. Today, when the issue has faded into the background yon these many seasons, the only camp that has gained ground is the “couldn’t care less” camp. The Tablet‘s contrary claim is wishful fiction.

  9. MAJ Tony says:

    Just curious, is the 98 what was called the “Blue Book?” If so, that version was a much better translation of the 75 than the garbage translation we were stuck with for most of OF history. The preface of the “Blue Book” actually was properly worded in English, as it actually followed the Latin text fairly closely, as opposed to the “Old ICEL” which started out “Father, All-Powerful…”

  10. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Those who want the 1998 translation, and those at the Tablet, remind me of Mencken’s quip. “It is as if a hungry man, set before a banquet prepared by master cooks and covering a table an acre in area, should turn his back on the feast and stay his stomach by catching and eating flies.”

    And let us pray also that the translation of the OF Liturgy of the Hours will soon be available and equally well translated.

  11. cpttom says:

    The attitude in the Tablet article is amusing because I’m betting the 10s of people who want the woefully inadequate 1998 translation are probably part of the faction that runs around in circles screaming when anyone wants to do a mass in Latin or, Heaven forbid, wants a mass according to the 1962 missal. I am guessing they are of a certain age as well, seems many priests and clerics over the age of 60 have monumental baggage regarding the Mass.

    This is one of those instances that indicates the alternate reality that these folks live in. They obviously aren’t paying attention to the collapse of the progressive movement and the rebirth of tradition in the youth who are still attending Mass. I am concerned for their mental and spiritual health as time goes on and their legacy is rolled back and replaced. This is what is happening in my diocese where the current Bishop is rolling back the 40 years of progressive leadership of the old bishop. It is stunning to watch the old guard thrash about and lash out. I pray for them and their mortal souls.

  12. SimonDodd says:

    Father said: “If only we had a single language and text to unify us in prayer. Lemme think…”

    I was floating the analogy to reform, conservative, and orthodox judaism the other day, and in point of fact, one of the reformers’ main demands was a vernacular liturgy, and one of the conservative/orthodox objections to that demand was that Jews throughout the world were united by a single liturgical language and text. It’s really not a bad analogy (not original to me, I might add, although I have been working to develop and elaborate it).

  13. Clemens Romanus: It’s ALWAYS the Jesuits.

    This seems so much like a bunch of whiny kids never giving up trying to wear down mom and dad through constant nudging and presenting options.

    The 1998 MR was a minor revision. The translation was just as pedestrian as the ’75 translation. I shudder to think how bad it could have turned out (imagine an Ebonics version?).

    Children get whiny when you take their toys away or put them in their corner in time out. The Liturginazis had free range for years…and then Dad stepped in and put a stop to it. Won’t stop their whining or agitating to be allowed to play with the Mass. Now, if we could only purge the newsprint hand missals of protestant and barely even Christian hymnody…guess that’s too much to ask for…

  14. Sonshine135 says:

    The 1998 translation was just awful. The 1975 MR was horrible. One need only see the comparison of the translations of what we see in today’s text alongside the obsolete ICEL and the 1962 ICEL to see today’s translations are much better. If only there was a website where you could see that ;)

  15. AngelGuarded says:

    When I asked, twice and nicely, the “young” liberal retired priest who says too many Masses in our parish if he could possibly see his way to using the proper translations from the rubrics, he said “it’s a bad translation, just don’t tell the Pope on me.” That amounts to acknowledgment that it was wrong of him yet he continues to say “… gave it to his ‘friends’ and said…” and “… shed for you and for ‘all'” as well as many other ad libs (mad libs?) he sprinkles throughout the Mass. I avoid his Masses when possible as this disturbs my peace and causes a near occasion of sin, but, alas, I am a Lector and have had to do so during his ad-libbed Mass. Please pray for this tyrant, er, dictator, er, priest as he is old and recalcitrant. I do not tell the young pastor out of sensitivity to his being overwhelmed with work and no assistant. I made a vow to only tell pastor of good things. For now. Thank you for the chance to post this. I am a little better now.

  16. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Not to be contrary, but in some ways, especially for the collects, the 1998 translation is superior to that in current use. Principally because it is written using English syntax. Anyone who claims there is no problem with the current translation should try to declaim aloud five or six of the opening collects. Even with practice even I who am a native speaker and well educated loose my place in the Latinate convolved phrases. This is not a problem for the people as they don’t have to declaim the collects and other prayers. That is why “the people” mostly could not care. They have gotten over learning “and with your spirit” etc. So their problems are history.

    This is not to say that there were no problems with the 1998 translation. A series of foolish decisions were made that doomed that translation in the light of Liturgiam authenticam. First was the substitution of the 1000 names of God so as to avoid “Father” and “Lord.” Next was the decision to use only “horizontal inclusive language” and even to impose “vertical inclusive language” much of the time. Finally, there was virtually no attempt to correct the shoddy 1970 translation of the Ordinary. Had these three blunders not been made, I suspect the 1998 translation would have been approved. And we would have had a version that was both accurate and in English.

    By the way, I have axe grind for the ICEL and its misadventures. I DO consider the new translation better than the old, and I regularly say Mass in Latin both in the OF and in the traditional Dominican Rite. So my liturgical tastes are hardly modernist. My sadness is that the English version could have been so much better than it tuned out.

  17. Tony Phillips says:

    I don’t mind if some people want to use the 1975 or 1998 (mis)translations; my concern is they tend to be the same people who want to control how everyone else worships. If there’s an indult for elderly priests to use the obsolete translations, there should be safeguards that they won’t be used at regular parish masses or imposed on the rest of us. I had 40+ years of ‘And also with you’ and ‘We believe’ and I’m not going back there. [If Mass were in Latin, people could use the translation they preferred.]

  18. mysticalrose says:

    @Clemens Romanus

    Two words: Karl. Rahner.

  19. mysticalrose says:

    Doh! I forgot Fr Z hates the @. Mea culpa! [@ is appropriate on Twitter.]

  20. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    It is amusing to see how Christopher Lamb’s elegant variation of style enables him to avoid clearly writing ‘critics are unhappy with the current English translation of the Mass which is judged […] a too literal translation of the Latin’ – for, not to want a translation that is a translation when the express and only purpose is too provide a translation sounds as silly and unconvincing as it is in fact – though, to his credit, he does go on to inform us that Archbishop Roche “said that ‘the principles governing the translation of liturgical texts of the Roman Rite had altered by 2001’ ” and to note that Liturgiam Authenticam “called for translations to convey the ‘integral manner’ of the original Latin ‘even while being verbally or syntactically different from it.’ ” The once and would-be-future emperors of ‘translation’ are wearing no clothes.

  21. HobokenZephyr says:

    This may be a dumb question, but — when Mass in the vernacular was first considered, why didn’t they just translate the Tridentine Mass into English, French, Spanish, etc.?

    We use the Vatican II Hymnal at our parish and it has both the Tridentine and Novus Ordo Masses in Latin and English, side by side in the front of the book. I may be downplaying it too much, but it has always read to me as if the NO was novelty for novelty’s sake & that an English Tridentine Mass would have preserved continuity with the past while making it “more accessible” for the current generation. As a point, I was raised on the NO Mass but I don’t buy the “more accessible” line — my father was educated to the 6th grade and till his dying day could participate in the EF Masses based on his instruction as an altar boy some 80 years before.

  22. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Augustine Thompson O.P.,

    Thank you for an interesting, informed comment! If Liturgiam Authenticam “called for translations to convey the ‘integral manner’ of the original Latin ‘even while being verbally or syntactically different from it’, why might the new translation, in properly eradicating the results of the “series of foolish decisions” also have sacrificed different syntax which apparently conveyed the “integral manner” of the original Latin?

  23. mburn16 says:

    I have no familiarity with the proposed 1998 translation, so I cannot speak to its quality. That said, you can’t argue the current translation is perfect either. Language is as much about style as substance…and some of the styling in the current translation is…clunky. Although the only part that I have ever personally had an issue with is the use of “many” rather than “multitudes”. The word “many” in English carries the connotation of automatic exclusion for at least some. Multitudes doesn’t.

    As for Latin – what percentage of Catholics sitting in the pews before 1960 could enjoy a literal understanding of what was being said during the mass without having to reference their missal? What percentage of non-catholics could have come in off the street and enjoyed a literal understanding of what was being said even WITH a missal in hand? There is enormous value in accessibility. Certainly there is a place for Latin, but to make it the only language of prayer for Catholics?

  24. truthfinder says:

    The only real complaint I have heard about the new translation once we settled into it, was the terrible Mass settings approved by the Canadian conference of bishops. It was a strange (and unholy) sounding mix of lounge music and children’s night time lullabys. I have the distinct memory of trying really hard not to laugh out loud during that first Mass while simultaneously wanting to flee.

  25. rodin says:

    Until about a year ago it was my practice to attend the Tridentine mass close to an hour’s drive away. Temporarily, I hope, I have been attending the NO locally. I use my 1962 missal because it has ALL of the prayers and, to me, they seem more heartfelt than what I have read of the NO. I hope that is not illegal.

  26. mhazell says:

    Augustine Thompson, O.P.: I’d argue that the syntax is just about the only thing the 1998 translation has going for it. It still suffers from many of the same problems that plagued 1973, e.g. flat, short sentences, the collapsing of various Latin words into one English word (“love”, “ask”, etc.). The CDWDS’s observations make for interesting reading…! (I also kinda like the sounds-ever-so-slightly-higgledy-piggledy-in-English vibe of the current translation, but I appreciate some find it a little difficult.)

    IMO, the thing that really killed the 1998 translation was all the extra, original material ICEL put in. For almost every Sunday and feast in the year, they provided three (!) alternative “opening prayers”, one for each of the lectionary years A, B and C. They stuck acclamations in the Exsultet, extra bits in the Canon and other Eucharistic prayers, composed entirely new Masses for the Various Needs section, and there was also the “Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass”, something totally outside the remit of a group of translators! All this, by the way, would have necessitated publishing the Missal in two volumes – one for Sundays and feasts, one for weekdays – so double the cost of 2011 (and more royalties for ICEL…?).

    Sonshine135: (warning: shamless plug coming up…!) If you’re interested in more comparisons (supplementary to the ones our wonderful host provides week by week), please visit my blog, where at the moment you can find two volumes of postcommunion studies that give side-by-side comparisons of an interim translation used in England & Wales (1972) and the 1973, 1998 and 2011 ICEL translations, as well as the liturgical sources behind each postcommunion. It’s a work in progress, and (obviously!) only covers the postcommunion prayers at the moment, but I hope to eventually cover the collects and offertory prayers.

  27. frjim4321 says:

    During a ten week period in early 2013 CARA applied advanced social research methods to a survey of a large sample of Roman Catholic priests. I hesitate to include a link because I don’t want to be thrown into the spam queue. But it is not hard to find.

    Among the principal findings of this survey:
    By a 3 to 2 margin, priests do not like the new text – 59% do not like it, compared to 39% who do.
    By a similar margin, 57% to 36%, priests do not like the more formal style of language, with over one-third (35%) strongly disliking the new language.
    Similarly, only 35% of priests think that the new translation is an improvement on the old one, against 56% who do not think it is an improvement. Over one- third of priests (34%) strongly disagree that the new Missal is an improvement.

    And so forth.

    So we’re not talking about “1o’s” and “11’s” of priests. Let’s not act like politicians who don’t believe in science.

    I have yet to be spanked for my on-the-fly corrections to the VC2010 probably because (1) they are subtle and probably very few people even notice them, (2) those that do dont’ care, (3) they really are improvements and are therefore not upsetting anyone, (4) the powers that be have much bigger fish to fry.

    My rules for correcting the VC are as you know:
    (1) Treat the quaesumus as did the fine scholars responsible for the ICEL 1973 and 1998,
    (2) Put the words into correct order per proper English syntax,
    (3) Replace arcane vocabulary with common vocabulary.

    It’s not hard to do at all. While it could be argued that these practices are slightly illicit, they certainly have no effect whatsoever on validity.

  28. Matthew Gaul says:

    It’s my perception that liturgical uniformitarianism breeds brittleness. If there was more regional “give” in the liturgy 100 years ago, I bet the TLM would not have “snapped” so easily in the last century.

    I have no idea if the 1998 translation was any good, but with the diversity of rites, uses, recensions, and forms in the Church, I am unimpressed with the “argument from uniformity.”

  29. The Cobbler says:

    I thought that to the progressive any Church document more than ten years old is already out of date?

    Other comments… mostly on others’ comments…

    “Many” only sounds exclusive where we’ve been saying “everyone”. Consider the immediate example: “Many people want the 1998 translation” does not mean “Only some people want the 1998 translation” but rather “Enough people want the 1998 translation for it to matter.” “Multitude” is in fact preferable, but not for “many” having the wrong meaning now: rather just because “multitude” has all the same meaning plus associated images and elevation of language.

    As for clunkiness, I’ve always felt glad that the current translation actually has flow instead of just blathering rhythmlessly like the old one. Then again, I lack familiarity with the 1998 proposal to comment upon it, and I myself can’t help wielding sentences the size of Alabama (sort of the intellectual equivalent of Fezzik who claimed it wasn’t his fault he was so big, he doesn’t even exercise).

    Personally, the biggest thing I noticed about the current translation is the simple fact that it is not iconoclastic. That is, there is actually imagery and content to meditate upon. When the priest stops to recite one of the many prayers sprinkled throughout the Mass, no longer does it feel like he’s stopping for no apparent reason to gab with us about little more than a vague and fuzzy notion of God. Again, for lack of familiarity I can’t comment on how the 1998 proposal compares.

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  31. tzard says:

    The request would not do what it claims to do. Choose a different translation and you’re omitting those who prefer the new translation. Even if it’s at the priestly level (which this request certainly is about) – the congregation would be forced to use different responses.

    And the continuing problem of “Oh I’m at St. Ersatz parish, what do they do here?” The new translation fixed many problems, but tinkering is still is creeping back.

  32. Stephen Matthew says:

    Fr. Jim,

    The scholars of yesteryear may have been fine, but their translation wasn’t, because in all too many cases it wasn’t a translation at all. It was just loosely based on or, as Hollywood says “inspired by” the original Latin. These are defects detectable to first year Latin students. To call some of what was done a “translation” is to take liberties with the truth.

    Now, I do happen to agree there are many instances where smoother English is possible without loosing the full meaning and depth of the Latin original. I have even seen some few specific examples where the ’98 looks to have done a better job on this.

    To any priest trying to discover how to proclaim the new texts, one of your first tasks should be doing is to make sure you understand what it is saying and why it is saying it, but just after that, I would advise you to figure out how to sing it. Priests who often sing many of the mass texts seem to be having an easier time of it, even when they only recite it. Priests who have never sung a collect after leaving seminary seem to be the ones who are having the most trouble and tripping all over the words and syntax. Even if you have a terrible singing voice, go somewhere private and try to figure out how you would chant the prayer. Once you have that figured out, being able to recite it in a speaking voice will likely come much easier. Just a suggestion.

  33. mhazell says:

    frjim4321: you mean this survey, where the respondents were self-selecting, came from only 32 out of the 178 dioceses in the USA, and lacks any sort of demographic data (e.g. age of respondents)? Sounds like a useful, reliable survey you’ve got right there… errm…

    BTW, your “rules” basically boil down to ignoring important words and dumbing the text down for us poor plebs in the pews. So, thanks for thinking so highly of us, Father! (/sarcasm)

  34. frjim4321 says:

    “I would advise you to figure out how to sing it. Priests who often sing many of the mass texts seem to be having an easier time of it, even when they only recite it. ” – Steven Matthew

    Thanks, that is a great idea.

  35. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Venerator and MHasel,

    This is probably stale but here goes. As to where the new translation how or why the new translation missed the mark on expressing the integral Latin but keeping the proper grammar and syntax of the receptor language, well, I suspect the translators were overcorrecting the problems of the earlier versions.

    As to “preparing” to read the collects and “understanding what they mean,” I don’t think that is the problem. I can read Latin collects (and regularly do without practice ahead of time) and I never get mixed up in the declamation (or singing) and I always know the meaning of what I am proclaiming. When I cannot do this, even with practice (unless I pencil mark up the text), for collects in my native language the problem problem lies with the translation. I might also add, that I explicitly noted that the Ordinary of 1998 was one of the problems that got the text rejected. That said, the English of the 1998 collects (what I was actually addressing) is superior to the new translation, not because of translation superiority but because they are actually in English.