Repetita iuvant: something from a recent WDTPRS column

I got an e-mail from a distinguished person who sometimes is kind enough to check in on this blog. He expressed approval of a commentary I made in my WDTPRS article for the 6th Sunday of Easter.  Given the recently publication of His Eminence Francis Card. Arinze’s letter to the president of the USCCB, I thought it not without value to represent to you this excerpt:

Here are some comments from a frustrated LF (edited): “You gave the title of ‘His Excellency’ to Donald Trautman.  … The title of ‘Excellency’ is an honor applied to persons of a high position that many times is not deserved….”  LF offered more of the same.  As a matter of fact, many of the comments I received this week concern His Excellency, Bishop Trautman.

LF, I think it is clear that I disagree with the positions held by the Bishop of Erie, His Excellency Most Reverend Donald W. Trautman, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Liturgy.  His Excellency believes liturgical language should be pegged to how people talk in daily life.  I believe there should be a fixed sacral style, different from daily speech, even if it is difficult for people to understand immediately.  His Excellency has been a proponent of inclusive language.  I am not.  His Excellency has been sharp critic of the Holy See’s normative document Liturgiam authenticam.  I think the norms deserve greater support.  Leaving aside the fact that His Excellency works on a level far above my lowly pay grade, the differences I might have with his positions do not permit me to offer him public disrespect.  His offices and state of life as a successor of the Apostles merit courtesy.  We accomplish nothing by harsh words or lack of decorum in public discourse.  This has been a fault of both traditionalists and progressivists alike.

In these columns from time to time I indulge in some gentle ribbing of those with whom I disagree, but I am dedicated to maintaining overall a tone of respect in these columns as befits a Catholic gentleman.  You will never change the mind of an opponent holding lofty position by showing him impertinence.  Gentlemen ought to be able to disagree without allowing rancor to distract from pursuit of the truth.  If His Excellency should ever choose to respond in any way, his contribution would be treated fairly and civilly.

Folks.  For years I have talked about a hot war being waged.  One of the hottest fronts concerns the "pro multis" question.  You have seen another massive salvo.

You should right now write a very brief and very respectful letter to your local bishop expressing your views on what you want from a new translation.  And tell them to translate "pro multis" correctly.


Just do it!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Séamas says:

    Thank you, Father.

    It always disheartens me to see Catholics publically bashing the bishops as if they were not the successors of the Apostles and the representives of Christ on earth. I think it must come from the nature of discourse in secular democratic society being carried over into religion as well.

    But the bishops are not mere politicians, and this is not the way good Catholics should behave. We owe our bishops filial love, submission and obedience, as well as basic courtesy and respect, regardless of whatever disagreements we may have, or whatever private doubts as to their competency or motives (which should be kept private).

    Let us follow the example of the saints, who gave even wicked superiors respect and obedience. They did it not for the sake of the person of the superior, but for the sake of Christ.

  2. RP Burke says:

    So “pro multis,” a translation from the Greek idiom that means “for the many” — i.e., for so many that we can’t count, the equivalent of “for all” — doesn’t mean this?

    Does this then mean then that Christ didn’t die for us all? And so there is some limit on those who can freely accept this gift?

    Fussing over literalism as an end in itself has theological implications. You’re not really a Feeneyite, are you?

  3. Petellius says:

    RP Burke:

    The Greek of the Gospel accounts actually reads “for many”, not “for the many” (in both Matthew and Mark; Luke has “for you”). The article is not used. And even if it were, the Greek idiom “the many” is not equivalent to “all”; rather, it is a (slightly derogatory) term for the lower class, “hoi polloi” (At least in Classical Greek. I am not entirely sure if this usage was still common in koine, but in any case, it did not mean “all”.)

    The arguments for pro multis = “for the many” = “for all” are, as I understand it, based on an Aramaic idiom, but I am not competent to comment on anything Aramaic.

  4. Andrew says:

    I think the issue at hand is much simpler: no one is asked to do theolo-linguistic research here. The task at hand is a simple translation of “pro multis” into English, which certainly does not mean “for all”.

    There are “multi” and there are “omnes”. And the two are not the same. “Multi” is “muchos” – ask any Latino and they will explain to you what it means.

  5. The task at hand is a simple translation of “pro multis” into English, which certainly does not mean “for all”.

    This is pretty much what Cardinal Ratzinger has said (regarding specifically the “pro multis” issue) in one of his recent books — as quoted recently by Fr. Z. That the complicated arguments about what the Gospels say or said — in whatever were their original languages — are irrelevant to the question of translating the Latin missal into English. To do this correctly, one needs only a reliable dictionary, not the history or linguistics or theology that might be needed for a new translation of the Bible.

  6. Petellius says:

    I agree entirely (and probably ought to have so noted) that all the Greek & Aramaic should not really be relevant to the issue. I was just offering some information about a point of fact which I have often seen misstated in these discussions.

Comments are closed.