Bp. Trautman is now 75 years old.

His Excellency Most Reverend Donald W. Trautman has attained the distinguished age of 75 years. In accordance with the Code of Canon Law, he has submitted his letter of resignation.  When his resignation will be accepted is a matter for conjecture.  He is, of course, still the Bishop of Erie.

I have, over the years, sharply disagreed with Bp. Trautman’s positions about liturgical translation.  That said, I admire His Sticktoitiveness.  His ability to make use of the rules of order and to work the conference has been masterful.  He has argued with ineffable tenacity.

A reader sent a link to an overly long article in the Pittsburghett Post-Gazette.  You read the whole thing there.  Here is a tidbit.

Retiring Erie bishop backs simpler English in Mass
Trautman opposes translations from the Latin backed by Vatican
Sunday, June 26, 2011
By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

When he turned 75 on Friday Catholic Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie submitted his mandatory resignation to Pope Benedict XVI. No one knows how long the pope will wait to accept it from a bishop who has rattled Roman officials with his relentless opposition to impending changes to the English-language Mass.

Bishop Trautman is famous in church circles for opposing new Mass translations that he believes are so literal to the Latin that their English meaning is obscured. Though his quest for greater clarity and flow of language largely failed, he won the respect of his fiercest opponents.  [We have to reject the writer’s premise.  His Sticktoitiveness argued for his ideas.  But we don’t have to grant that his ideas in truth involved “greater clarity”.]


Bishop Trautman doesn’t regret the effort.

“I’m not a rabble-rouser. I’m not a radical. You talk to my priests and they probably think I’m the most conservative bishop in the country.” [?!?] Indeed he might be most known outside Erie for forbidding public supporters of legal abortion to receive honors from Catholic institutions. [Exactly right.  Good for him!]


The council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which decreed that the laity must be able to easily understand the Mass, [Ummm…. it did?  Easily?] shaped his ministry. But critics of what has happened since Vatican II, sometimes including Pope Benedict, believe that some reforms went too far. They believe that simplistic translations rendered a sublime Mass mundane. [“simplistic”… not to mention inaccurate.  Mundane?  Or banal.  Take your pick.]

Bishop Trautman disagrees. He believes that because Latin syntax is so different from that of English, literal translations produce convoluted and awkward language. Further, he believes that the Vatican II documents calling for simple, clear wording have more authority than recent decrees that he says require “slavishly” following the Latin.  [ROFL!  Okay.  Fine.  But we must again reject the premise.  The new translation are not “slavish”.  They are closer to the Latin, but they are not slavishly so.]

“Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised if it takes a long time for the council to be implemented. But we must not betray the 2,000 bishops who came. [Puhleeze.] This was the whole church, and it was a powerful statement that the Holy Spirit was present and breathed into those documents [The Holy spirit “breathed” into the documents of Vatican II?] what was needed for the church,” Bishop Trautman said.


There is a lot more. The article describes, inter alia, Bp. Trautman’s admirable position about pro-abortion politicians and Holy Communion.  You can read it over there.

We have no idea when the Holy Father will accept Bp. Trautman’s resignation, but when it happens WDTPRS wishes him well for a fruitful retirement.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Augustin57 says:

    Hopefully, the Holy Father will replace him with a first round draft choice. It seems we’ve been getting some better bishops, overall, under this Pope, yes? And I think it will only get better as time goes by. The results of the seminaries being improved. (Not there yet, but decidedly better than a couple decades ago or so!)

  2. Centristian says:

    Bishop Trautman is an excellent example of how a personality can magnify a relatively obscure office. That the bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania (of all places) should have achieved such stature and renown (or notoriety, depending upon one’s perspective) in the Church in America represents a rather interesting phenomenon, I think.

    I remember Father Trautman, as a kid, saying Mass at my parish church rather frequently. He was a diocesan official but also a weekend associate at the parish my family belonged to. He was always very mild-mannered and unassuming. Whether he leaned to the left or the right never would have occurred to me back then. I wonder whether or not it occurred to him. I was surprised to first see him emerge on to the (Church’s) national scene as something of a boat rocker after becoming bishop of Erie. He seemed to me the last person one would have expected to become a lightening rod of any sort.

    I certainly wish Bishop Trautman well in his retirement.

  3. Ralph says:

    Father Z,

    Thank you for this article. Sometimes we let the slightest disagreements color our judgement of a person. I have to admit, I did not hold Bishop Trautmann in high reguard before I read this piece. I saw him as a personification of what was wrong with the “Vat. II Generation” of clergy. But, now I know I was wrong. Bishop and I may not agree on everything, but I see that he is much more than a simplistic mouth piece of the left. He seems a deep and caring man who truly wants to do the right thing.
    My sincere apologies to Bishop for my previous unkind thoughts. I was wrong.

  4. Andrew says:

    When I read comments such as this, I really wish people would just pick up “Sacrosanctum Concilium” (the Vat. II document on sacred liturgy) and re-read or read it for themselves. It’s just really tiring to have to correct so many falsehoods being thrown around in the name of that document.

  5. John V says:

    Even if the article was “overly long”, there was additional material that didn’t make the editorial cut. For anyone who might be interested, Ann Rodgers posted it yesterday on her Post-Gazette blog called Faithburgh.

  6. Geoffrey says:

    The Holy Spirit was indeed present and breathed into the documents of Vatican II. Too bad no one really READS them!

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    May he have a very quick and then quiet retirement. Maybe he would like to live abroad?

  8. dinsdale says:

    In the article, Bp. Trautman is depicted as wanting to make the Mass easily understood by “Joe and Mary Catholic”, and the assumption that follows is that the language must be quite common to suit this purpose. Unfortunately, in practice this underestimates the cognitive abilities of “Joe and Mary Catholic”. Bp. Trautman might be surprised by the ability of common people to grasp complex concepts and moderately challenging language.

  9. Joe in Canada says:

    “breathed into” because “inspired” is too complicated and latinate for the average American. I presume.

  10. Tina in Ashburn says:

    sooooo….the Holy Spirit breathed on the Vatican II documents, did He? Did anybody get to SEE these particular documents?

    This post demonstrates how one can find something charitable to say about anyone. LOL.

    It is especially advisable that the laity be careful when criticizing clergy and religious, which seems to be out of hand lately. These individuals hold an office or a consecrated position that make it extra-offensive to God when speaking ill of them. Its not that we can’t be made aware of bad actions and consequences wrought by such individuals, its that great care and charity must manage the self-righteous tone.

    I hafta say though, it is much easier to say nice things and forget about damages of the past when someone enters the ineffective state of retirement. Whew. I’ll be glad to see a good replacement for this particular office! I’ll say a prayer for Bishop Trautman.

  11. Mike Morrow says:

    Trautman…he’s even better than Weakland! :-)

  12. rfox2 says:

    Fr. Z said: “The Holy spirit “breathed” into the documents of Vatican II?”

    I would like to hear other’s opinion on this. I agree the question should be posed, especially when prelates or priests quote Vatican II as though everything contained therein were de Fide. Bp. Trautman goes a step further, suggesting that the documents were inspired, which can’t be true. Dissenters tend to be Janus-faced regarding the authoritativeness of Vatican 2, in one breath testifying to the “pastoral” nature of the Council, and in the next equating the conciliar documents as though they are Revelation itself.

    Bp. Trautman also implies that Sacrosanctum Concilium mandated the use of the lowest common denominator of the vulgar tongue when in fact it recommended that Latin retain pride of place in the liturgy. Therefore, a more “slavish” translation into English would actually more faithfully implement the Council than what he suggests. Para. 36 states “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” And, in para. 54 “Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” So, Bp. Trautman is correct, the Council is NOT being implemented concerning the language of the Liturgy, but not in the manner he suggests!

  13. BenFischer says:

    Does anyone else find it a bit RealPolitik that our Holy Father might just leave Bishop Trautman in place long enough to implement the translation he hated so much?

    I have no problem with Bp Trautman. I may disagree with him but he’s trying to do right by his flock. It would just be ironic if he didn’t get to retire quietly before The Big Rollout.

  14. vox borealis says:


    I’m not sure you mean to use the term RealPolitik here. In its strictest sense RealPolitik refers to politics and/or diplomacy based on power and material gain rather than ideology. What could the Pope possibly gain by intentionally leaving Bishop Trautman in place just so he has to witness the implementation of the new translation? Indeed, you imply that the Pope would want to “stick it to” Bishop Trautman—that strikes me as an ideological or personal motive, and exactly not Real Politik. In addition, RealPolitik is often used in a negative sense (i.e., Machiavellian or amoral politics). Are you suggesting the Pope is acting in a Machiavellian manner? really?

    Whatever the case, with 3,000 dioceses in the world to oversee, I pretty much doubt that thumbing his nose at the bishop of a relatively unimportant diocese in the USA is high on the Holy Father’s priority list.

  15. ipadre says:

    If “the Holy Spirit was present and breathed into those documents”, than, we need to bring the Latin back and follow the rest more literally as willed by the Council Fathers in Sacrosanctum concilium.

  16. Dr. Eric says:

    Keep your hands off Bishop Perry, Diocese of Erie!

  17. adeodatus49 says:

    “Mundane? Or banal. Take your pick”

    The word I usually use in reference to the N.O.M. is “pedestrian” liturgy.

    Dumbed-down English translations? These are aimed at the sheep-in-the-pew and assume that the “sheep” really are sheep intellectually. How could this (re: vernacular translations) ever be a desirable thing to do?

  18. thereseb says:

    I still wear Chanel No19, which I first wore when I was 18. It reminds me of when I was young – like Proust and his madeleine. I frequently read of bishops and priests whose attitude to V2 is “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, and to be young was heaven”. Perhaps it is so dear to them partly because they associate it with when they were young and strong and hopeful. Perhaps the resistance to the new liturgy and the choice (not imposition) of the EF which seems so puzzling to us in Generation Jones is based on that strong human emotion that ties us to things we all associate with youth rather than on deliberate contrariness.

  19. Pledger says:

    Look, no fan of Bishop Trautman’s liturgical translation preference I…..but to utter his name in the same breath as Archbishop Weakland (*shudder*)….I’m sorry….I just can’t go along with it. Trautman wasn’t a fan of the translation, and argued as such…sometimes making valid points. And I think he added to the debate. I don’t agree with him much at all…but I think his presence and his voice were beneficial.

    Weakland destroyed a beautiful Cathedral by forcing his will upon it (something that, had it been done by a more traditional bishop, ironically, would have caused screams from the left). He then memorialized the fact that he won and they lost by putting a plaque, written in Latin, in the vestibule. He engaged in sexual misconduct and paid off his lover to keep quiet, then caused scandal by writing a book about it.

    Sorry….the two just don’t even come close.

  20. Denis says:

    “He has argued with ineffable tenacity.”

    Is this a new usage of “ineffable”, as synonymous with “Machiavellian”?

  21. JohnRoss says:

    I’d like someone to redo my confirmation because I was confirmed by Bishop Trautperson.

  22. shane says:

    I wish Bishop Trautman a happy retirement though I very much look forward to the day when Vatican II is politely forgotten.

  23. jcn0903 says:

    I disagree with His excellency, Bishop Trautman, on the question of the English translation. That is not a matter of morality, it does admit considerations of judgement. On the other hand, His Excellency was one of very few who spoke forcefully against the travesty at Notre Dame 2 years ago. For that I say well done good and faithful servant.

  24. robtbrown says:

    Bp Trautman thinks the present state of the liturgy is what Vat II wanted. Papa Ratzinger thinks that a mess was made of the liturgical reform.

    Houston, we have a problem.

  25. heway says:

    I, too, have fond memories of Bishop Trautman – in the diocese of Buffalo. It is easy to be a “Monday morning quarterback” but we should think of the possibility that all that he has done has been in obedience. Many good people, priests and laity alike, acted and continue to do so, in obedience. Do not be so quick to ‘judge’ lest you be judged by others unfavorably.
    I pray the Bishop has a wonderful retirement and thank him for all his work for the church.

  26. mike cliffson says:

    other commenters:
    Don’t knock VII documents until you’ve used them other than in English. In English they are, or were, by comparison, unwieldy and unreadable not not redolent of anything much pneumatic. In Spanish they are – mostly-clear and readable to a layman, Spanish being a cinch , and with thousands of experts and reams of precedent, to translate from Latin or even Italian. Going thru someVII docs , about 20years ago , with the help of our eldest daughter’s Godfather before his ordination but with his theology degree, was most enriching.( I understood more than I had, but still far far less than a priest should) Also illuminating on the social level: all sorts of things one had been given to understand as a justification for this that and the other were there or were so , simply weren’t there and weren’t so.

  27. robtbrown says:

    mike cliffson says:

    Also illuminating on the social level: all sorts of things one had been given to understand as a justification for this that and the other were there or were so , simply weren’t there and weren’t so.

    Although I agree with you that many things that were done weren’t to be found in, say, the document on liturgy, nevertheless, they were justified using various texts in Gaudium et Spes as a hermeneutic for all the documents. JRatzinger warned against such method.

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