His Excellency Bishop Trautman’s article in America

His Excellency Donald W. Trautman, the Erie bishop in Pennsylvania, Chairone of the Bishops Committee on Liturgy, and general enemy of the Holy See’s norms for liturgical translation had an article in that bastion of liturgical wisdom America magazine.  I wrote something about it when it came out way back in May, but the whole thing was so warmed over that I have forgotten where it put it.

There is nothing new in his Excellency’s article.  Nothing.  He has been pushing the same argument for years now.

It boils down to this: you are too stupid to understand an accurately translated prayer.  Because you are too stupid, because the prayers are tooo haaard for you to understand, His Excellency wants to you have mashed carrots and goop instead of a rare T-Bone and structured Cab, like mommy and daddy do for their kiddies.

The jarred peas His Excellency wants to nourish you with is made with blender setting “Contemporary Relevance”.  His Excellency is of the mind that liturgical language must speak to you immediately, without you having to do any work, like, thinking, pondering, listening carefully, or knowing any big words.  Like the contents of a blender, the translations will have to be in perpetual motion to keep up with changing trends in language and expression (and education).

An exaggerated version (but not by much) of what we are talking about is at Gerald’s place, to whom I tip the … you know, the funny priest hat  o{]:¬)

A reader (John Pritchett) has gotten his hands on a Trautman draft of the Mass, apparently the version relevant for white teenagers:

Mass of Trautman
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: Yeah…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?

If there is enough interest, I will fisk His Excellency’s article, but it is cliche stuff.  His Excellency is recycling.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Sadly, I once attended a Mass which had a “Eucharistic Prayer” not too dissimilar from the one satirized here. I couldn’t partake in the Body and Blood of the Lord, (if it were indeed confected) due to being so angry and sad at the grave abuse that occured.

  2. Cody says:

    When I was in high school (public-TX) I led the opening prayer at the baccalaureate service. I had to change a word in my prayer because it the vocabulary was “too difficult”. The word was “apt.” APT! I didn’t protest, but I couldn’t believe that 1) the word “apt” was seen as too difficult for high school graduates, and 2) that it mattered at all, as if I were praying to the students and not to God.

    I think we especially need to keep the latter point: we are praying to God, not to ourselves!

  3. Cody says:

    Also, if the bishops are so worried about the people not understanding words like “consubstantial” – they need to improve catechesis!

  4. Hilarity says:

    “His Excellency is recycling”

    He’d do more for the environment by shutting up once in a while. I mean, really! talk about contributing to greenhouse gases.

  5. Boko Fittleworth says:

    In Adoremus, now Bishop Eliot makes the point that the entire liturgy is now seen as having primarily a didactic function. I remember reading Marshall McLuan saying that this aspect of the liturgy would come to dominate if microphones were introduced. The vernacular, mikes, versus populum, the loss of the silent Canon: all these things have made the liturgy primarily about the presider speaking to us, rather than about the Son, in the Spirit, speaking to the Father, with us, led by the priest, along for the glorious ride. Mass is, at best, an interesting lecture, and, at worst, open mic night at a comedy club.

    God knows what “consubstantial” means. He also understands Latin. Is the Mass about us or about Him? If we answer “Him”, these issues disappear.

  6. Sub Umbra Mortis says:

    As a former seminarian who has had to endure the trials of seminary liturgical committees, so-called liturgical conferences, and a barrage of indoctrination classes, I can attest to the fact that there are still plenty of relics out their touting this babble-speak. It’s as though the only thing that doesn’t change in the Mass is the bread in wine. They still have not come to grips with the fact that men long for the sacred. Man is made to worship and adore Triune God with fitting and beautiful language. But please, let us not confuse the intelligencia with the facts; after all their minds are already made up. Still I am saddened greatly whenever I hear such hogwash.

    I am convinced more than ever that the only way to save the fitting worship and to restore a sense of sacred theology, language, and catechesis is to completely restore and make normative the 1962 Roman Missal and accompanying rites. This solution it the only one that would transcend the political nature of linguistics, and the current rift in the church’s hierarchy.

  7. Fr. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R. says:

    Padre Z,

    Please limit your posts to one or at most two syllable….er… three syllable words cuz we ain’t gettin what you say butt we always get what Don says.

    Yer bro in the Big Guy,
    Padre Scott, of the group of guys of the really holy Redemption Man

  8. Sub Umbra Mortis says:

    Boko Fittleworth, a most astute comment indeed. I assure you that entertainment is more important to the average person in the pew than a Mass well said. If the sermon doesn’t tingel the ear, than mass is boring. Eliot’s a prophet.

  9. Andy S. says:


    While I agree that God obviously knows what means, I don’t think it’s sufficient. We’re not affirming what God believes, but what we believe. To say that you believe something without having the slightest notion of what you’re talking about is meaningless.

    That said, I don’t think it’d be too hard to clue people in.

  10. Alan Stout says:

    And now from the Gather hymnal:

    Break the bread,
    squash the grape,
    even killers are servants of the lord…
    we are all one body
    holding hands in light
    as we gather, round the table, with our hearts…

    ©David Haas 1987

  11. Le Renard says:

    Ordo Missae Cum Populo – 2007 Edition

    My peeps, let’s roll with the Lord, givin’ Him props and love

    Yo, Bid Daddy upstairs (Our Father, who art in heaven)
    You be chillin (Hallowed be thy name)
    So be yo hood (Thy Kingdom come)
    You be sayin’ it, I be doin’ it (Thy will be done)
    In this here hood and yo’s (On earth as it is in heaven)
    Gimme some eats (Give us this day our daily bread)
    And cut me some slack, (And forgive us our trespasses)
    Sos I be doin’ it to dem dat diss me (As we forgive those who trespass against us)
    don’t be pushing me into no jive (And lead us not into temptation)
    and keep dem Crips away (But deliver us from evil)
    ‘Cause you always be da Man (For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever.)
    Aaa-men (Amen)

  12. danphunter1 says:

    Is Bishop Trautman that misinformed? Or perhaps he has trouble himself understanding elegant and correct liturgical language, and because of his own confusion assumes that all other Americans are similarly befuddled.
    Or are there darker forces at work here?
    Or both?
    God bless you,and thank you for your continued Catholic crusading.

  13. Father I think you got this part wrong:
    I’m sorry if anything I did was offensive. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. My bad.

    In keeping with modern usage, it should rather be:
    I’m sorry if you’re offended by anything I did. I didn’t mean for you to get offended.

    Your version is much too apologetic, and the person who says it might feel bad! Can’t have that! They have to cut out some felt doves for the Peace banner after Mass, and we want them to be happy doves, not sad doves.

  14. Of course my perpetual question is why does Rome allow guys like Trautman to actually be in charge of something like the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy?
    If the guy is that vocal and that obstinate against the directives from Rome …
    Sadly, bishops (and clergy and laity) should be doing the right thing on their own, but since there are many who just don’t seem to want to do that, I don’t see why Rome doesn’t “enforce the Truth” a bit more.
    “Please do this” has come out of Rome too many times, and since it isn’t enforced, why would those who choose to disobey want to change?

  15. Patrick Rothwell says:

    The spoof is perfect, except that it’s missing “dude” and “like, you know.”

  16. Patrick Rothwell says:

    Well I’ll be twitched. It does indeed have “dude” and “[like] you know.” 5 stars!

  17. Brian says:

    Funny that Gerald’s reader should say “get started.” I actually heard a priest (and one in his 70s, who you’d think would know better) begin Mass by saying, “OK. Let’s get started. In the name . . .”

    Or how about the aging Irish Jesuit who added this to Jesus’ advice to the twelve about not taking a staff or a money bag: “Don’t take an American Express, Visa or Mastercard.” Maybe he was just trying to be funny, and not necessarily to make us “understand” what Jesus was saying. It’s one of the few times my jaw dropped at Mass.

    The other was one Easter Vigil at a parish in central New Jersey in which the “music ministry,” thinking that perhaps we couldn’t “get into” the Litany of the Saints, played a rockin’ version of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.”

  18. Sid Cundiff says:

    Odd how he who ostensibly wishes clarity promotes obscurantism.

  19. Boko: I was writing years ago about Mass as a “didactic moment”. If memory serves this was part of an interview I did also with His Eminence Augustine Card. Mayer, for Sacred Music.

  20. Sid Cundiff says:

    I mean Trautman

  21. Kevin: be happy doves, not sad doves.

    Oh dear. I almost hurled.

  22. Colm Meanie says:

    danphunter1: Or are there darker forces at work here?

    I have a feeling, and it’s just a feeling, that Darth Vader may be responsible for this!

  23. Boko says:


    I’d like to hear more of your thought the didactic nature of the liturgy. Liturgy is didactic just by being liturgy. Sadly, rather than letting the Liturgy teach/form in its (His) image, some people don’t trust the liturgy, or us, or don’t like what the Liturgy has been teaching, so they use liturgy as an excuse to get us into a room where they can work onfashioning us in their own image. I sometimes think the Sunday obligation should be done away with until they can guarantee better music and preaching, or at tleast the absence of the dreck we have now. It ain’t right to make a grown man sit through that stuff.

    Also, you heard this here first, unless you/ve heard it before: one of the truly revolutionary things that’s happening with liturgy is the tension btwn the readings-are they addressed to God or to us? This seems to be a major area of legitimate organic growth, or ressourcement, or whatever.

    Sorry for the typos. Half my post is off the page when I type.

  24. Dave Deavel says:

    On Boko’s point about microphones, this point (and others about the nature of amplified sound) was made by Robert Spaemann in his interventions at Fontgombault in 2003 at the conference with Cardinal Ratzinger.

    What’s intriguing to me is that the more amplification there is at Mass the less people can participate since it’s hard to hear one’s voice.

  25. Karen Russell says:

    I think that liturgy needs reworking. I counted at least 5 words with three syllables (apart from the asides) and we don’t want to strain the participants–it might interfere with their being able to participate “actively.”

    Seriously, I would enjoy a fisk, if you have time to do it, Father.

  26. Red Cardigan says:

    Fr. Z, is it a sin if I wrestled with the temptation to blog about this but then gave in and blogged about it anyway? :)

    I did refrain from my initial uncharitable reaction that I’ll believe the bishop is serious about John and Mary Catholic when he quits striving for liturgy that panders to Dick and Jane.

    I’d love to see a fisk, also, though I know that for you writing one would be a soporific enterprise fraught with the peril of terminal ennui.

  27. Argent says:

    Le Renard: Ordo Missae Cum Populo…..and cut me some slack…don’t be pushing me into no jive…and keep dem Crips away…

    ROFLOL! You should send your CV to the good Bishop.

  28. Dan O says:

    I am not sure I agree with either side in this argument.

    It is obvious to me that many of the translations currently in use are terribly mundane. They seem to drain much of the spirit and mystery right out of the Latin texts. They also have many examples of biased interpretation injected falsely into the translations. Fr. Z and others have given us countless examples of this through the years.

    On the other hand, I see some of what bishop Trautman is saying. Translation is more than transliterating. With the amount of manpower and intelligence that should be available to the Vatican, great translations should be achievable. English translation does not have to be unintelligible nor awkward. Some examples given by Bishop Trautman are certainly awkwardly phrased. As in the posting on the document on guidelines on pastoral care on the road, one should not expect liturgical translations to be as stilted as a babelfish created translation. I believe that ‘slavishly accurate liturgical translations’ can be made that are at once true to the Latin original without theologically injected bias, having a sacred, prayerful, poetic and mysterious tone and are still readily intelligible and smooth when proclaimed.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I believe it can and should be done.

  29. Chris says:

    Father, little of topic, but what time is Mass tomorrow morning in the chapel? I’ve been watching each morning and never catch it!

  30. Jason says:

    I think Bishop Trautman’s name is too off-putting and divisive. I’d prefer if he’d use ‘Trautperson’.

  31. Michael Robusto says:

    I’m afraid “Trautperson” won’t do. If he were “chairperson” of the Bishops” Committee on the Liturgy, he’d be Trautperson. However, I believe he refers to himself as the “chair” of that committee. Therefore, his name should be “Traut”.

  32. I’ve heard Mass start with “So how bout them Chargers? In the name of the Father..”. Said Mass ended with “let’s give the band a hand” and “thanks for coming”. In the homily, the priest made a joke about how John Paul II. almost didn’t get into Heaven because he didn’t allow female priests and that God didn’t agree, in fact “SHE” was very angry. Mind you, a good part of the San Diego congregation, or should I say audience, laughed and applauded. Father is very popular with many for his “folksy” style.

  33. Daniel says:

    Father or those who might know-

    This is slightly related-liturgy and translation. I am on the lookout for the Liturgy of the Hours in Hebrew, if there is such a thing. Having taken biblical Hebrew for a number of years, I wonder if there is a breviary that might have the psalter in the masoretic Hebrew, or if this would ever be a suitable replacement. (I am in the position where I would need permission to deviate from episcopal-approved breviaries).

  34. michigancatholic says:

    I hate to accuse Bp Trautman of being so arrogant as to call the entire body of the laity so stupid and ignorant that they can’t understand the rudiments of their own language. After all, the language is ours, and to use his own words, we *own* it. So it’s hardly his job to tell us whether we use it properly (that is, as he thinks we should!).

    But perhaps Bp Trautman is only using himself as a yardstick for discerning what people can understand. Poor man. It must be difficult for him to get along with such limitations.

    Maybe he should get out and see what the rest of the world does and how we actually use the language. I don’t think he’s listening to anyone but himself. Honestly.

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