Relive the thrills: the USCCB discusses liturgical translation

If you didn’t have an opportunity to listen to the USCCB debate the liturgical issues pertaining to the approval of the Gray Book, here you go.

Enjoy listening to the arguments presented by Bp. Trautman and Bp. Galleone.

Effectively, this meeting shows that they have lost.

Some highlights.

Bishop Trautman argued for yet more changes, stating that the word “ineffable” to describe God’s name is simply too hard for people to understand and proposing instead “divine”.  Bishop Trautman’s objections to “ineffable” as tooo haaard were swiftly and simply set aside, happily for reasons you have read in these pages, and his amendments rejected. 

My favorite moment came when Bishop Trautman suggested that a phrase in a prayer “cleanse from vices” be changed to “help to cleanse us of vices”.  The liturgy committee under the chairmanship of Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, recommended rejection of Bishop Trautman’s change, because their version was an accurate translation of the Latin.  Bishop Trautman was trying to change the theology of the prayer.  Alas, it passed, thus distorting the theology of the prayer.  However, I believe it was the president of the USSCB, Francis Card. George, at the open microphone before him could be heard to say “this is Pelagian”.  (Around 11:40. I think.)

When called upon to vote for the new draft, the Gray Book, to go to the Holy See for review and endorsement, the bishops mustered their commonsense and approved it. 

While there will always be debates about how to translate this or that prayer, it is now clear that sacral language faithful to the doctrinal integrity of the original and the echoes and references within, has definitively gained ascendancy among the American bishops over a preference for colloquial, ephemeral language aimed at the lower denominators. 

The new translations, where challenging, must be introduced with a renewed and rich liturgical catechesis. 

Over the years, friends, WDTPRS has tried to do its small part to help.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Christabel says:

    Thank you and bless you, Father, for all you have done to help to create the environment where this could happen.

  2. Joseph says:

    I hear this every Sunday. I have yet to see anyone drooling or scratching his head in confusion.

    It is proper and just to sing to You, to bless You, to praise You, to
    thank You, to worship You in every place of Your kingdom (Psalm
    103:22), for You are God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible,
    incomprehensible, ever-existing and yet ever the same, You and Your
    only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You brought us out of
    non-existence into being and, when we had fallen, You raised us up
    again, and left nothing undone to lead us to heaven and bestow upon us
    Your future kingdom. For all this we give thanks to You and to Your
    only-begotten Son and to Your Holy Spirit, for all things of which we
    know and do not know, the manifest and hidden benefits bestowed upon

    We thank You also for this Liturgy which You have found worthy to
    receive from our hands, even though there stand before You thousands
    of archangels, tens of thousands of angels (Daniel 7:io), Cherubim and
    Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2), six-winged and many-eyed, who soar aloft on
    their wings, and who Sing, cry out and proclaim the triumphant hymn,

  3. Andrew says:

    Re: Cleanse us of vices.
    Brilliant how Bishop Trautman, having proposed a change, seems to come up with an on-the-spot suggestion or “some words like that” as he says. I’m glad he thought it through before hand.

    Re: ineffable
    Bishop Trautman cites Vatican II, which, while perfectly legitimate, suggests he is working in the oft-cited “spirit” of Vatican II rather than the “letter” of Vatican II. I love the point of order asking whether Bp Trautman prefers “divine” or “eternal” when he suggests “divine or eternal”, as if he doesn’t care which one. Just goes to show, yet again, that he’s thinking on the spot rather than being prepared before hand. The arguments against are great (reference to sacral language, King James, understanding context of prayer as a whole, teaching, Eastern Rites). The arguments against are feeble (marketers suggesting that consumers be catered to!!!).

    Would describing this episode as a liturgical slap-down be disrespectful?

  4. Jim says:

    Just a word to thank you for your blog, which I find tremendously informative and balanced. Thank you for your orthodox witness also.

  5. Piers-the-Ploughman says:

    Congratulations Father after so many years of labor on accurate inspiring translations. It is very moving to see so much finally come to pass after so long and yet there is still much to wait on!

  6. Alexander the Mongol says:

    wait, to clarify Bp. Trautman’s suggestions to change the prayers passed?

    I am not getting how this works, so all English countries review the the liturgical translation then reply Rome what they want changed? So what if England, America, and New Zealand all send different translation suggestions for the same phrase? Is it not the plan now for there to be only one English translation? What about countries where large minority of the population speaks English, like Nigeria, South Africa, and India – do they get a say too?

    Why dose Rome even have the bishop conferences review the texts (which were themselves translated by English speaking bishops)? I wonder what would of happened if St. Pope Pius V sent all of the bishops the Tridentine Missal for approval….. (they would probably approve it since the bishops back then actually took what Rome said seriously)

    hey why didn’t the Pope ask for the approval and opinion of each episcopal conference when he changed the Good Friday Jew prayer? Don’t get me wrong I love our pope but I fail to see any logic or wisdom in asking each English speaking episcopal conference for approval of translations which were done with the order and blessing of Rome by English speaking bishops!

  7. Gleb says:

    Father- could I induce you to comment on the new versions of the psalter approved by the bishops? I have read something favorable about it in Adoremus.

  8. Joshua says:

    The bishop talking at 43-44 minutes doesn´t realise the conclusion of his argument. Just go Latin

  9. Adam says:

    Are there new translations being done by Spanish-speaking countries as well? Will this be employed here in the U.S. for masses in Spanish?

  10. “I don’t think the word ‘ineffable’ is unspeakable.” That is great.

  11. patrick f says:

    I dont understand….. why do they meet and discuss this? Isnt there already an english translation, from the people who gave us english…. the english? Why not just use that? Its still english, and we all in the states just might sound a little more articulate.

  12. Peter says:

    Could someone explain what was wrong about Bp. Trautman’s argument “help to cleanse..”? Also, why is it Pelagian? Conversely, what was the orthodox meaning of the prayer with “cleanse us…”

  13. patrick f says:

    Also… liturgy committees were mentioned. Another thing I dont get.

    One good thing about our new pastor. He disolved our liturgy committee. I mean….. the liturgy is the liturgy is the liturgy. Why does a group have to get together to plan it? Priests know what to plan each week. Its called “the Ordo”. Enough said.

  14. Peter-

    Pelagianism is a heresy that says, basically, that we humans can, of our own accord and without any divine graces, choose to do good and earn our own salvation. Christ does not simply help cleanse us of our sins, he actually does! This is where the problem comes in with “help to cleanse” rather than simply “cleanse”. If you listen closely, you can hear him say (I think)”God’s Christ-action cleanses us” as opposed to it helping to cleanse us.

    Hope that helps to clear it up.

  15. Ann says:

    James, don’t you mean “Hope that clears it up”…not “hope that helps clear it up”? Just joking!

    You’re right, there is a world of difference in meaning! To me the phrase “help to cleanse” enfeebles God, as if saying, “C’mon, God, try your best, help us with this cleansing stuff”, extra words make the meaning less powerful and insult God.

  16. Kyle says:

    “The new translations, where challenging, must be introduced with a renewed and rich liturgical catechesis.”

    I’m a Grad Theology student at Franciscan University of Steubenville and the catechetics folks here are gearing up to teach the catechists-in-training how to teach parishioners about the forthcoming translation. There’s a real sense that we’re learning from the post-Vatican II mistakes of liturgical implementation done poorly. Catechesis truly is the key.

  17. NoName says:

    Happened to pick up the 1969 (first) edition of Byzantine Daily Worship at the library a few days back. Just flipping through it, I noticed ineffable being used a few times. And dew appears also.

  18. David C says:

    Do the bishops really vote on these decisions without discussing the Latin? And, it was easy to tell that the translators of our current translation thought they were improving on the Latin rather than being faithful to it, but it was a shock to me to hear Bp. Trautman state this explicitly.

    On the other hand, I didn’t hear Bp. Trautman say anything about us cleansing ourselves — rather, his argument was centered around whether the cleansing is complete or ongoing. Where does the Pelagianism come in?

  19. Jordanes says:

    The Pelagianism is in changing the prayer from asking God to cleanse us to asking God to help to cleanse us. The Church’s prayer unambiguously refers to the fact that we are saved wholly by God’s grace. Bishop Trautman’s prayer (which Rome will certainly reject, as it isn’t an accurate and faithful translation) is ambiguous, suggesting that we aren’t after all incapable of being cleansed unless it is by God’ grace alone, that we (or somebody other than God) does the cleansing, and God just helps. Consequently his prayer is heretical or proximate to heresy — it is Pelagian or semi-Pelagian, or suggestive of Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism, which is a serious problem in and of itself.

    But even if it weren’t doctrinally or theologically suspect, it is unacceptable because the prayer doesn’t say “help to cleanse,” it says simply “cleanse.” He probably means well, but still, whatever Bishop Trautman’s motive for desiring such a distortion of the Church’s prayer, it cannot be a good motive.

  20. Craigmaddie says:

    I think the expression “help to cleanse us of vices” has a subtle sense that God is an instrument in our hands wherewith we cleanse ourselves of sins. I think that feeds into the popular concept of God as an ‘energy’ that we can tap into for our own ends – albeit in this context good ones.

  21. Joe says:

    Joseph, your Priest says that prayer out loud? Every week? Most Byzantine Christians would not have heard that prayer as it is said while the congregation is singing “it is right to praise” etc.

    Perhaps the Bishops are dog people and don’t want us to be Cats of the Lord:
    “When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
    The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
    His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
    Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
    His ineffable effable
    Deep and inscrutable singular Name.” (On the Naming of Cats, T S Eliot)

  22. David C says:

    Where can I find the prayers in question, in context and in Latin? On the basis of the arguments presented, I would have voted against the amendment for sure if they had asked me. But, I do think that the Pelagian angle is being read into Bp. Trautman\’s remarks. Why couldn\’t he have meant that the Eucharist is one of many graces given by God that together (over time) accomplish the cleansing from vices? (I am understanding a vice to be a habit that is part of concupiscence, and therefore not eradicated in the same way that sins are remitted in the sacraments — is that incorrect?)

  23. Father Z: The new translations, where challenging, must be introduced with a renewed and rich liturgical catechesis.

    Rich liturgical catechesis might well be beneficial and refreshing, if only for the novelty.

    But don’t you think accurate translations could be used without significant pew-sitter difficulties in every parish in the country day after tomorrow?

    If so, why wait 4 more years?

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