QUAERITUR: When priests and Catholics just don’t care enough to get it right.

From a reader:

I am wondering what the difference of changing “one in being with the Father” to “consubstantial” is in the Creed? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being in line with the original Latin and most precise
translation. However, I go to a more liberal “Catholic” university and many people are attacking that translation call, even the priest ( who “accidentally” preached Dec 8 was Jesus’conception). I just want to have something to answer them with that reflects the Tradition of the Holy Mother Church. Thank you!

You may have answered your own question.

The people who don’t get the significance of the change from “one in being” to “consubstantial” are the same kinds of people who would confuse the Immaculate Conception.

That is how much they grasp or pay attention to Catholic doctrine.

The real problem is that, just as those imbued with Modernism 2.0 – Modernism Lite – they are not paying attention to doctrine.  “Accidently”, my eye.

It just doesn’t matter enough to them to want to get it right.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Perhaps the priest went to the Jack White school of dogma, classmates with Stephen Colbert.


    *crude language alert*

  2. Legisperitus says:

    As a speaker explained at the USCCB conference a few years ago, “All of us here in this room are one in being. But we are not consubstantial.”

  3. aarmstrong says:

    @ Legisperitus

    That is a great quote. That drives the meaning home.

  4. jesusthroughmary says:

    The precise theological term that the Church has used since the early centuries is “substance”; the word “being”, while not incorrect, does not convey either the continuity with tradition or the theological precision of “substance”. Also, we know the word in the Latin text, which is the definitive text for Catholics, has a direct English cognate; so we should use it. Translation is not a means to the end of catechesis. If pastors are worried that the people won’t understand the truths of the Faith, then it’s their job to catechize their flocks, not ICEL’s.

  5. Titus says:

    Didn’t our own gracious host and blogger point out some time back that “one in being” is just as obscure as “consubstantial,” but that people think they know what it means because it uses tiny words? That seems to be an important fact: all we’ve done is take an obscure, difficult, and neologistic phrase and replaced it with a less obscure, equally difficult, but quite traditional word.

    And are the people in a room one in being? The quote certainly suggests the ambiguity in the phrasal approach. It is good not to have such ambiguity.

  6. guatadopt says:

    Consubstantial is jut going back to the original Latin…but the original Creed composed in Greek and defended in spite of dungeon, fire and sword for the first 600 years of the Church. People who are ignorant of church history are ignorant of Christ Himself. “One in Being” is confusing and could, philosophically, lead some down the path of modalism, albeit in a round about way. Saying “consubstantial” (I would have even been ok with “of the same substance”) leaves no question whatsoever about the relationship of the Father and the Son.

  7. 1987 says:

    I believe this could be helpful – http://www.sspx.org/pastors_corner/pastors_corner_december_2011.htm#consubstantial
    Don’t get scared it’s from the SSPX, even if you don’t approve of everything they do. The argumentation here is based on Jacques Maritain (not actually a “right-wing” guy). The fact that they have interest in and approve of the new translation shows that all the talks about their “schismatic mentality” and lack of charity towards the Church are, say, exaggerated.

  8. robtbrown says:

    Legisperitus says:

    As a speaker explained at the USCCB conference a few years ago, “All of us here in this room are one in being. But we are not consubstantial.”

    I’m not crazy about that example. In fact, we are all different beings. Our oneness consists in all of us existing, with being proportioned acc to the nature and individual of each.

    One in Being is ambiguous–thus the possibility of One in Being including Modalism is good. There are no accidents in God. Further, some, not all, accidents are one in being with the respective substance, e.g., color of hair.

  9. JKnott says:

    Shortly after the Council of Nicaea, St. Athanasius was quoted, in a biography I recently read, to have strongly warned, “Never remove the word consubstantial from the Creed!”
    What I cannot understand is why the Church caved. We certainly must have had brilliantly educated clergy in the Vatican at that time.

  10. albinus1 says:

    JKnott: The problem is that St. Athanasius wrote and spoke in Greek, and probably didn’t speak Latin, or, if he did, not very well (by the 4th century, the Latin and Greek halves of the Empire were already pretty clearly pulling away from one another), and the Creed was drafted in Greek, not Latin. What Athanasius presumably said was homoousios, which is what the original Greek text of the creed says, and which literally means “one-being-ish”. Consubstantialis is as much an approximation in Latin of homoousios as “one in being” is an approximation in English of consubstantialis.

  11. albinus1 says:

    Correction to my last post: homoousios means “SAME-being-ish”. Sorry about that; serves me right for posting in haste. My overall point, however, remains.

    I think one of the problems with using “being” in English is that, in English, “being” has come to be used to mean “an individual” (e.g., “I am a human being”), whereas in Greek, ousia means “being” in the sense of “essence”. I like “consubstantial; but if we didn’t want to use “consubstantial”, “of the same essence” might be an acceptable substitute that conveys the right idea, I think. “One in being” almost sounds, in English, as if one is saying that there is no difference between the Father and Jesus.

  12. guatadopt says:


    I agree. If you translate from the original Greek to English, you would probably get “of the same essence or substance”. Ousia can mean essence or substance, but personally I think substance conveys it better. If im not mistaken, that is the way it is said in Orthodox liturgy.

    And quite frankly, ousia is even feeble because our minds cannot grasp the nature of the Trinity with mere words. That’s why the creed hammers it home…”God from God, Light from Light (this was because of Origen’s and other’s attempt to explain the relationship using beems of the sun), True God from True God.

  13. dep says:

    One of the very few things that troubles me about the new translation is the missed opportunity to restore a great deal of beauty to the liturgy. For instance, in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer the passage is “being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things are made.” While “consubstantial” is accurate, it’s also a little technical, and it is certainly not pretty. (Another example from 1928 is the response to “Let us give thanks unto our Lord God,” which is “It is meet and right so to do.” Again, same meaning, with the addition of beauty.) Sadly, one of the burdens of the Church today is to remind congregants that this is church, not the coffee shop or some such. The language should be different; it must be different. It should, also, be of beauty, of awe and wonder and mystery. Lukewarm pablum in the language leads to lukewarm belief.

    Yes, this is solved by Latin, but reality tells us that the way toward that is smoothed by making the liturgy a thing of such overarching beauty that it encourages us to thirst for even more. The new translation is a baby step in that direction. It could have been so much more.

  14. BobP says:

    As the old adage goes, “Be careful for what you ask. You may get it.” You wanted vernacular…

  15. pfreddys says:

    It really, really annoys me when people {especially a priest} muddle the feastdays of the Church. Because even in dates Holy Mother Church gives us instruction and edification. Mary was conceived in absolute purity so the Immaculate Conception is EXACTLY 9 months before the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nine months is the perfect time of the gestation period of a human being. Our Lord Jesus Christ was of course conceived Absolutely Pure: so the feast of the Annuciation is EXACTLY 9 months before Christmas.
    And now here is where it gets charming: St. John the Baptist was not conceived in purity. He gained purity at the event of the visitation. So on some calendars the feast of his conception is Sept. 23 and his nativity is celebrated on June 24th. Nine months and one day: to show the slight period of impurity he suffered while in the womb.

  16. James Joseph says:

    I went to Catholic schools and I thought the Immaculate Conception was the Annunciation for the longest-time, well into highschool, and perhaps into college.

  17. mike cliffson says:

    It’s a long time since I was involved in technical translations.Sometimes something more liguistically cumbersome than the obvious marketplace choice is inevitable.Sometimes you can introduce a wholly new word .
    Of zero importance compared to the faith, and extremely minority anyway, I tried to push such a new word in Spanish , using Spanish roots about 1975-76 in a particular new facet of ruminant digestion and limiting amino acids, but was outvoted and technical Spanish aquired yet another loanword, itself a new coinage, fom English, on the grounds that people would think they understood the new Spanish word I was proposing , rather than learn the meaning assigned to it, and get it wrong, whereas the (new) English term was already defined in published papers. Nobody defended any existing Spanish word or expression as adequate, , on a technical judgenment made by the wholly competent hands-on research scientists involved……
    Obviously” of one being” sounds more natural. I can’t myself judge, nor would want to presume to the theology- but this is the creed! If it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough, and shouldn’t have been okayed in the first place!better late than never.
    I am not convinced that the Catholic anglosphere is lacking faithful theolgians who are also wordsmiths capable of receiving a bit of inspiration from the Holy Spirit who might come up with something better some day in general, whether or not this particular case remains on the agenda – we’ve got till the last trump, after all. Or alternatively we’ll all stop worrying about one word out of the about half of English words of latin origin.
    Whichever of the three comes first……..

  18. AnAmericanMother says:

    Of course, dear Cranmer managed a good Englished compromise a few years ago – “being of one substance with the Father”.
    Just sayin’.

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