Articles on “pro multis”

In 2004 I wrote several articles in The Wanderer about the "pro multis" controversy.  I have posted them for your convenience.

  1. The Roman Canon / 1st Eucharistic Prayer – 8: “Simili modo”
  2. The Roman Canon / 1st Eucharistic Prayer – 10: “Simili modo” part 2
  3. The Roman Canon / 1st Eucharistic Prayer – 10: “Simili modo” part 3
  4. The Roman Canon / 1st Eucharistic Prayer – 12: “Simili modo” part 4


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Thank you for accumulating them. I had been trying to search. your blog for this.

  2. Diane says:

    …and, this is what I was looking for confirmation of:

    The Church’s teaching is clear. This is our Catholic faith: Christ died for all but not all will be saved. Many will be saved. Many can be a huge number, a multitude so vast it defies human imagining but not God’s ability to number. Lacking even one, not all are saved.

    (taken from 8, above).

    God Bless!

  3. Brian Mershon says:

    Dear Father Z,

    So this confirms it. You had mentioned finding out something was a great consolation to you, then you published this? Along with another priest blogging from Rome, it is obvious that you have heard that the translations accepted from Rome of the USCCB and ICEL will be rejected and that “pro multis” will be the official translation in English as “for many” rather than “for all.”

    Got it! Confirm or deny, please?

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    Yes, this is a happy day for many, if not for all.

  5. Confused… I’m not sure Jesus is speaking about who will be saved; but about whom he shed his blood for. Obviously Christ shed his blood for all, and I have heard it argued that this is actually the sense of for many in Aramaic. The Roman Canon does not need to quote English translations of scripture verbatim and doesn’t pretend to.

  6. Catholic Lady says:

    Henry said “Yes, this is a happy day for many, if not for all.”

    Well certainly it should be a happy day for one, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY FATHER ZUHLSDORF”

  7. Jordan Potter says:

    “Got it! Confirm or deny, please?”

    Brian, Fr. Zuhlsdorf already confirmed that that’s what he has been told, in an earlier weblog post further down.

    Good news indeed. Praise God!

  8. Diane says:

    Rather than scroll down go here:

    About pro-multis…

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    I have heard it argued that this is actually the sense of for many in Aramaic.

    Read Father Z’s posted columns. He’s dealt almost ad infinitum with this Aramaic issue, including the fact that it came originally from the interpretation of a Lutheran theologian with a certain perspective of his own. In addition, Fr. Z quotes somewhere the stated view of Pope Benedict (writing as Cardinal Ratzinger) that this is not a question of translating a biblical text, but rather of translating correctly the defined Latin text of the Canon.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    Thank you for posting these excellent articles in one convenient place, Father! I read them the first time around and have been wanting to track them down to save and study ever since. Thank you again!

  11. Kevin Miller says:

    I have a couple quibbles about a couple things in these posts
    – the “the Church’s teaching is clear” part, and the use of
    the Card. Ratzinger footnote – which I mentioned in the
    comboxes under the respective posts.

    I’ll add again (as I did in the second of those comments
    below) that I think the “for many” translation makes more
    sense, and if it’s now to be required, fine.

    I have to admit, though, that I think there are a lot of
    things in the current translation that are much more
    radically at variance with the clear meaning of the normative Latin. I’m not sure
    I entirely see the point of singling this one out for a
    special directive – while we wait for other improvements in
    our translation.

  12. Jordan Potter says:

    Maybe it’s because this was one of the glaring problems in the proposed new translation where the new translation departs from Liturgiam Authenticam? And maybe because it has been such a burr in the saddle to traditionalists?

  13. Henry Edwards says:

    Sometimes our language here is precise and careful, perhaps even to a fault. Over at they tend to tell it plainly and simply, like it is (with their italics, my boldface):

    “Fr. Zuhlsdorf reveals that the Holy Father, in his great benevolence, will insist on Pro Multis being rendered non-idiotically in the upcoming Missal translation, expressly against the concensus of the Bishops. ….. Recall, if you will, the humorous scene from 2005:”

    The “humorous scene” that follows is a transcript of our bishops’ discussion of the “pro multis” question at their USCCB meeting.

  14. John says:

    Burr in the saddle or not this will mean little to traditionalists. The major dispute is over the Novus Ordo, not the translation.

  15. “they tend to tell it plainly and simply, like it is ”

    ‘It’ is never simple or plain, and people who put it simply and plainly are seldom, if ever, telling ‘it’ like it is–just in a way that is easy to understand.

  16. Catholic Lady says:

    Kevin – I think it is more than just a translation issue. It is a matter of church doctrine. As Fr Z said, “The Church’s teaching is clear. This is our Catholic faith: Christ died for all but not all will be saved. ”

    The mistranslation misleads some to believe that all will be saved.

    In fact at a N.O. Mass I attended last week, a very elderly priest said just that saying that was what the Greek translation said – sometimes it is hard to resist jumping up and saying ‘NOT’.

  17. Catholic Lady says:


    Most traditionalists I know object to the mistranslation even if they do not attend the N.O. Mass for the same reasons as I expressed to Kevin. Some even have questioned if it makes the N.O. consecration invalid, which it does not.

  18. Kevin Miller says:

    Catholic Lady: But, I think that claim misreads Church
    doctrine. As I said below, see the Catechism of the Catholic
    Church. It isn’t true that all are automatically saved. It
    isn’t true that we can in any way know that all are saved.
    But neither is it true that we can know that all aren’t. We
    can, in fact, hope that all are saved.

    In fact, to the extent that “for many” leads anyone to deny
    this, I think that it becomes doctrinally problematic – just
    as “for all” does if it leads anyone to think that we can
    know that all are saved.

  19. Kevin Miller says:

    By the way, in addition to CCC 1821 (“In hope, the Church
    prays for ‘all men to be saved'”), which I mentioned below,
    I might also note 605: “He 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

    And that “many” in Mt. 20 pretty clearly means the same thing
    as does the “many” at the Last Supper – so that the latter
    needs to be read in the same light.

    So in what to my knowledge is the most recent Magisterial
    interpretation, we’re told by the Church that this “many”
    refers to “the whole of humanity” – not simply to those who
    will actually be saved (assuming that this is less than the

    Again, this doesn’t mean that the “for many” translation
    isn’t best. But it does, I think, mean that the reason
    the “for many” translation is best isn’t because of an
    alleged contrast between “all” of humanity and a smaller
    “many” who’ll actually be saved – both because that isn’t
    how the Church interprets the “many,” and because the Church
    doesn’t teach that we can know that the “many” is smaller
    than the “all.” So if someone were to favor “for many” as
    a way of expressing that contrast, that’d be theologically
    and doctrinally problematic – just as if someone were to
    favor “for all” as a way of expressing the view that we can
    know that all are actually saved (whether because this
    happens automatically, or because we can know that it happens
    de facto).

  20. Kevin: You wrote: “So if someone were to favor “for many” as
    a way of expressing that contrast, that’d be theologically
    and doctrinally problematic – just as if someone were to
    favor “for all” as a way of expressing the view that we can
    know that all are actually saved (whether because this
    happens automatically, or because we can know that it happens
    de facto).”

    Nope. That can’t be right.

  21. Matt Kennel says:

    Fr. Z,
    While I do think that the Latin text ought to be translated accurately, and I therefore support a translation of “for the many.”, I don’t buy all of your arguments for this translation.

    For example, your argument “[for all] is open to either a perfectly correct understanding or to one that could be argued to be heretical” could be equally well be applied to the tranlslation “for many.” The phrase, “for many” can easily be interpreted according the the heresy of the Calvinists. I quote from Wayne Grudem’s book Systematic Theology (which represents the Reformed tradition). “Those whom God planned to save are the same people for whom Christ also came to die, and to those same people the Holy Spirit will certainly apply the benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, even awakening their faith and calling them to trust in him. What God the Father proposed, God the Son and the Holy Spirit agreed to and surely carried out.” (Pg. 595) According to Grudem, when the Scriptures refer to Christ dying for all, they mean merely that the offer of Christ’s salvation can be freely made to all (Pg. 598), not that Christ’s death could actually save all.

    So, my point is, the words “for many” could be misconstrued to imply that Christ died only for those who are actually saved, as opposed to the Catholic understanding that the value of Christ’s sacrifice is for all, even if fruit is only borne in those who are actually saved. So, you cannot argue that the possibility of “for all” being misconstrued, should exclude “for all”, because the possibility of misconstrual also exists for “for many”. And, while there may be more of a chance of one error (i.e. misinterpreting “for all”) today, who can say what the situation will be like 30 years from now, when the new ICEL tranlsation will hopefully still be used? I think that the simple grounds of wanting an accurate translation, apart from any arguments over “pastoral” issues, are more than adequate to justify “for many” as a translation choice.

  22. Kevin Miller says:

    Fr. Z.: What part “can’t be right,” and why?

    I assume that you agree that we can’t in any sense know that
    all are saved – and therefore that someone favoring “for all”
    as an expression of the view that we can somehow know that
    all are saved is taking a position that doesn’t work

    So perhaps you’re resisting the view that neither can we know
    that all aren’t saved – that we may (and do) hope that all
    are saved – so that favoring “for many” for the specific
    reason that it can be taken as denying that hope wouldn’t
    work either, doctrinally/theologically.

    But, in that case, you’re mistaken, per the CCC.

    It says that we hope that all are saved – which, logically,
    means that we don’t know that not all are saved. And it says
    that, in any case, Christ’s “many” is “not restrictive” –
    both because we don’t know that not all are saved, and also
    because, as Matt notes, even if in fact not all are saved,
    that still doesn’t mean that Christ didn’t, in a very
    significant sense, die for all.

    That’s Catholic doctrine.

  23. Henry Edwards says:

    Kevin: The more you write, the more I wonder whether you’re tilting at a non-existent windmill. It seems clear to me that everyone here would agree that Christ died to open the gates to salvation “for all” (whether or not all actually get through them). It seems equally clear that everyone here would agree — completely aside from any doctrinal or theological questions — that “for all” is not a correct translation of “pro multis”. If so, what’s the difficulty? Can you make it any plainer (perhaps by using few words and quotes)?

  24. Kevin Miller says:


    The difficulty is that there’s a problem with doing the
    right thing for the wrong reason.

    And the question here isn’t simply what the translation
    should be, but also why.

    One of the views that’s being advanced is that the
    translation needs to be “for many” in order to convey that
    we know that not all are saved.

    And what I’m saying is that while the translation ought to
    be “for many” – since that’s the most straightforward
    rendering of “pro multis” – it would be doctrinally wrong
    to say that the “for many” conveys that we know that not all
    are saved.

    It’s important to get our liturgical translations correct.
    It’s also necessary to get our doctrine correct. Some of what
    I’m reading here does the former, but also does something
    like the opposite of the latter.

    And that was happening before I started commenting.

  25. AM says:

    This is a very odd conversation, since the materials of a full argument are available as the very post these are comments about.

    Kevin, would it help to read the Tridentine Catechism? For me, that expained it so clearly I’ve never worried about it again. “The words “for you and for many”… serve to declare the fruit and advantage of His Passion. For if we look to its [His Passion’s] value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race.”

    Clear, no?

  26. Matt Kennel says:

    I think that it’s a matter of wanting to present clear, logical arguments for your cause. Just because a position is right (in this case, translating “pro multis” as “for many”), doesn’t mean that all reasons adduced for believing it are correct. So, I felt like the “pastoral” argument (the people will misconstrue it “for all”) wasn’t the best. That’s not to deny that there is a need for a more adequate catechesis among Catholics, especially about the four last things and the nature of the Mass. Specifically, as a relatively new Catholic (I was confirmed in March 2005, a convert from Mennonitism), I feel the need for a more adequate catechesis on the meaning and import of the various parts of the Mass. That is one of the reasons why I both love and frequent this blog.

    Furthermore, we should bring one more item into the discussion. If one looks at the the ecumenical dimension of the liturgy, one must realize that we must take the existance of Protestantism into account. For example, other than the Catholic doctrine, I believe that no system of theology has been as well developed and explained as Calvinism. And, furthermore, Calvin’s disciples make up a large portion of our seperated bretheren. Thus, we would do well to take the doctrinal expressions of Protestants into view while explaining our own theology, so that we can “always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us].” (1 Pet 3:15). This is especially true when realizing that our Protestant bretheren often come to visit us during our celebration of the Holy Sacrifice. Thus, we should conduct ourselves with the utmost reverence with regard to the Mass. This applies both to our behavior as priests and laity, and to that of the translators as guardians of the “faith which was once for delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3).

    That is why I suggested that in translating and explaining the Mass, we need to take the errors Protestants make into account as well as the errors that Catholics make. However, this is still not a reason to translate “pro multis” as “for all”. If we are to present our faith consistantly (to both Catholics and Protestants), we must be truthful about what we believe and why we believe it, for he in whom we believe is himself Truth. This is all the more reason to have an accurate tranlsation of the Mass. In this way, when we try to explain our faith, we will know we are starting with what the Church actually teaches.

  27. Jordan Potter says:

    “It says that we hope that all are saved – which, logically,
    means that we don’t know that not all are saved.”

    No, it logically means no such thing. Hoping on a case by case basis that each person might be saved does not necessarily add up mathematically to hoping that all will be saved. It is possible that one might know that not all will be saved and yet still hope, each time someone dies and goes to be judged, that the departed soul will be shown mercy. For example, if we take the Scriptures at face value, then one could conclude that Judas lost his salvation (yes, I know the Church allows speculation thatJudas might still be saved, but work with me here). If so, one could know based on a revelation from God in Holy Scripture that not all will be saved, and yet that still would not change the fact that God is not willing thatt any should perish, and therefore we ought to hope and pray that all will be saved even if we know they won’t. In short, hoping that all be saved is not the same thing as hoping for universal salvation, because each soul is an individual case, not just a part of a greater whole.

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  29. Philip Sandstrom says:

    It should be noted somewhere in this whole argument that the translation “for all” w
    was truncated from the original text of the translations (which was printed in the S
    Sacramentaries (both in the British and the American versions) which said “for you
    and for all men”. The dropping of ‘men’ from this was considered by many a triumph of
    feminism — so we were left with ‘all’ without any notion of what the ‘all’ was
    supposed to refer to — ‘all humans’, ‘all creation’, or what? Meanwhile the
    French said “pour vous et pour la multitude”; the Germans “fur Euch und fur alle”;
    the Dutch “voor u en alle mensen”; the Spanish “por vos et por todos”. Objectively
    the French seem to have the best version. The English was changed to be different
    for ideological reasons, introducing a ‘new theological concept’ as an unintended
    consequence of the ideology.

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