New Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio changes law about preparation, approval of liturgical translations

17_09_09_Magnum_principiumToday a new Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio was issued under the Latin title “Magnum principium”.   In various languages HERE (including the Latin text).

There’s a lot to say.  I can’t now be exhaustive. Also, I want to read slowly the commentary on the canons provided by Arcbp. Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments [CDWDS].  In brief, Pope Francis established that the CDWDS will have less of a role in the creation of liturgical texts.  Till now, the CDWDS could strongly intervene and make changes on its own to translations of liturgical texts.  Henceforth, their primary role will be to approve the texts prepared by Episcopal Conferences.  This takes effect in October.  That’s the nutshell.

Let’s see the introduction and explanatory part of the text with my emphases and comments.  After that, I’ll make some general observations.


The great principle, established by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, according to which liturgical prayer be accommodated to the comprehension of the people so that it might be understood, required the weighty task of introducing the vernacular language into the liturgy and of preparing and approving the versions of the liturgical books, a charge that was entrusted to the Bishops. [One might add, “An even Greater Principle is the clear mandate from the Council Fathers that Latin remain the principle language of worship in the Latin Church.”]

The Latin Church was aware of the attendant sacrifice involved in the partial loss of liturgical Latin, which had been in use throughout the world over the course of centuries. [The partial loss?!?] However it willingly opened the door so that these versions, as part of the rites themselves, might become the voice of the Church celebrating the divine mysteries along with the Latin language.  [There’s a problem here.  Translations rarely communicate the whole content of text.  This problem is magnified when trying to render liturgical texts which have deep and many layered ancient origins.  Also, translations are sometimes simply wrong.  So, are the errors now also enshrined “along with” the content of the originals?  Does this Motu Proprio seek to place the content of the many and diverging translations on the same level (“along with”) the Latin originals?]

At the same time, especially given the various clearly expressed views of the Council Fathers with regard to the use of the vernacular language in the liturgy, the Church was aware of the difficulties that might present themselves in this regard. [The Council was pretty clear that the Latin language should remain the principle language of worship even as it opened the possibility some greater use the vernacular.  Hence, I wonder if the writers of this Motu Proprio read the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium or if they are operating in the cloudy spirit of Vatican II.] On the one hand it was necessary to unite the good of the faithful of a given time and culture and their right to a conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations with the substantial unity of the Roman Rite. [Here’s a little translation irony: that “active” there is supposed to reflect Sacrosanctum Concilium’s  word “actuosa”, which is better rendered as the deeper “actual”.  However, what does “substantial unity” of the Roman Rite mean?  How much divergence is allowed, how many options are to be tallied, before it isn’t the Roman Rite anymore?] On the other hand the vernacular languages themselves, often only in a progressive manner, would be able to become liturgical languages, standing out in a not dissimilar way to liturgical Latin for their elegance of style and the profundity of their concepts with the aim of nourishing the faith.  [“In a progressive manner”… meaning… what?  That we’ve had to take a few runs in the pole vault in order to get over the bar?  Is that what our long ecclesial nightmare with the first ICEL translation was?  Does this indicate that we will soon see alterations to the 2011 ICEL version which people have just gotten used to? That “would be able to become liturgical languages” seems to admit that vernacular versions around the world haven’t been that great.  REMEMBER – this Motu Proprio isn’t just for the English speaking world.]

This was the aim of various Liturgical Laws, Instructions, Circular Letters, indications and confirmations of liturgical books in the various vernacular languages issued by the Apostolic See from the time of the Council which was true both before as well as after the laws established by the Code of Canon Law.

The criteria indicated were and remain at the level of general guidelines and, as far as possible, must be followed by Liturgical Commissions as the most suitable instruments so that, across the great variety of languages, the liturgical community can arrive at an expressive style suitable and appropriate to the individual parts, maintaining integrity and accurate faithfulness especially in translating some texts of major importance in each liturgical book.  [Let’s take the last part first.  “Some texts of major importance”… so, “accurate faithfulness” applies… sometimes.  When I read that first sentence, my mind immediately jumped to the debate stirred by chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia.  Some have suggested that moral standards for the divorced and civilly remarried are merely “ideals” which not everyone can attain.  Nor should such couples be expected to attain them.  Moral standards taught by Christ and the Church are thus “general guidelines” that people might shoot for “as far as possible”.  Okay, that’s where my mind went when reading that.  That said, the work of translation of liturgical texts involves choices.  You have to sacrifice one aspect of a prayer’s polyvalent content to express another aspect.  So, we mind our guidelines and do our best… as far as possible.  And, btw, “texts of major importance”, according to the attached NOTE from the Secretary of the Congregation, means, Order of Mass, Eucharistic prayers, forms of sacraments, prayers of ordination, etc.]

Because the liturgical text is a ritual sign it is a means of oral communication. However, for the believers who celebrate the sacred rites the word is also a mystery. Indeed when words are uttered, in particular when the Sacred Scriptures are read, God speaks to us. In the Gospel Christ himself speaks to his people who respond either themselves or through the celebrant by prayer to the Lord in the Holy Spirit. [So far, this is the best paragraph in the document.]

The goal of the translation of liturgical texts and of biblical texts for the Liturgy of the Word is to announce the word of salvation to the faithful in obedience to the faith and to express the prayer of the Church to the Lord. For this purpose it is necessary to communicate to a given people using its own language all that the Church intended to communicate to other people through the Latin language. [Hang on.  Remember that whole thing from the Council that LATIN should remain the principle language of worship?  Also, I wrote a weekly column on liturgical translations, comparing the English ICEL versions with the Latin.  Week after week I found nuances in the Latin that had to be sacrificed in order to put down on paper a literal version or a somewhat smoother version.  This strong veer away from Latin as the language used for worship has impoverished the content of the Latin.  Sure, not everyone in the pews would have homogeneously strong Latin skills.  However, when Latin was used, people in the pews could have varying translation in their hand missals.  Since we are swooping around in the blue sky of ideals, one might imagine Catholics comparing their translations over post-dismissal coffee and doughnuts and, as a result, getting more rather than less of the Latin original.] While fidelity cannot always be judged by individual words but must be sought in the context of the whole communicative act and according to its literary genre, nevertheless some particular terms must also be considered in the context of the entire Catholic faith because each translation of texts must be congruent with sound doctrine.  [An admission that translations are traitors (tradutore, traditore).  And, yes, some particular terms must be carefully guarded.  I have in mind “pro multis, for example.]

It is no surprise that difficulties have arisen between the Episcopal Conferences and the Apostolic See [read: Germany, etc.] in the course of this long passage of work. In order that the decisions of the Council about the use of vernacular languages in the liturgy[Again, the Council Fathers said that Latin… oh, … why bother….] can also be of value in the future a vigilant and creative collaboration full of reciprocal trust[bzzzzzz] between the Episcopal Conferences and the Dicastery of the Apostolic See that exercises the task of promoting the Sacred Liturgy, i.e. the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is absolutely necessary. For this reason, in order that the renewal of the whole liturgical life might continue, [hmmm] it seemed opportune that some principles handed on since the time of the Council should be more clearly reaffirmed and put into practice.  [There were a series of documents after the Council about the implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium.  They include Liturgiam authenticam which is the most recent document establishing the translation norms which eventually coughed up the 2011 ICEL version in current use.  Other language groups have had their own adventures.  His dictis, I must insist that Summorum Pontificum also contains principles for  the “renewal of the whole liturgical life” of the Church.  But this paragraph and the rest of the document have a different bent.]

Without doubt, attention must be paid to the benefit and good of the faithful, nor must the right and duty of Episcopal Conferences be forgotten who, together with Episcopal Conferences from regions sharing the same language and with the Apostolic See, must ensure and establish that, while the character of each language is safeguarded, the sense of the original text is fully and faithfully rendered and that even after adaptations the translated liturgical books always illuminate the unity of the Roman Rite. [Latin: “semper refulgeant unitate ritus Romani”.  An interesting choice of words: “refulgeant…illuminate” the unity.  It seems not to be the goal to “strengthen” or “foster” unity, but “reflect” it in some way.  Am I nitpicking?]

To make collaboration in this service to the faithful between the Apostolic See and Episcopal Conferences easier and more fruitful, and having listened to the advice of the Commission of Bishops and Experts that I established, [Do we have a list of names?] I order, with the authority entrusted to me, [now we get down to brass tacks] that the canonical discipline currently in force in can. 838 of the C.I.C. be made clearer so that, according to what is stated in the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, in particular in articles 36 §§3.4, 40 and 63, and in the Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Sacram Liturgiam, n. IX, the competency of the Apostolic See surrounding the translation of liturgical books and the more radical adaptations established and approved by Episcopal Conferences be made clearer, among which can also be numbered eventual new texts to be inserted into these books.


So, the Pope now changes the Church’s laws.  I left that part out.  As I said at the top establishes that the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments [CDWDS] will have less of a role in the creation of liturgical texts.  Henceforth, their primary role will be to approve the texts prepared by Episcopal Conferences.  That’s the nutshell.  There was a phase in the preparation of translation at which Rome was able on its own to make substantial changes to the translations prepared by, for example, ICEL (for the English language).  You might remember that during the preparation of what became the 2011 ICEL version, there was an advisory Committee under the CDWDS called Vox Clara which – though it didn’t have authority on its own – had influence in adjusting what ICEL (and the USCCB) prepared. And the Congregation indeed made changes on its own authority.   That was not well received by some.  That was welcomed by others.  The German language process also had it’s committee.

The Germans are always a problem, by the way, in just about everything, but I digress.

The changes to the law seem to seek a middle path.  They limit the role of the CDWDS to approving translations prepared by conferences and groups like ICEL.  However, they also must still safeguard the integrity of the translations according to the norms, which at present are in Liturgiam authenticam (LA).  My spidey sense suggests that this is a way of subverting the principles of LA enough to allow for a return to the dynamic equivalence approach which, in its more radical form, produced the rubbish we suffered with in the English world for decades before the 2011 version.  However, the Congregation still retains the veto power.  That’s good, provided the Congregation retains competent and strong personnel.  There will be great pressure on the officials of the CDWDS to rubberstamp whatever comes their way.  The results could be disastrous.

There are several things, however, that bother me.

First, the driving principle in the explanatory part of the Motu Proprio seems to be the spirit of Vatican II, rather than its letter.

Second, the document reflects the effort to decentralize authority, taking it bit by bit away from the individuated dicasteries of the Roman Curia and distributing it to regional conferences of bishops.  It seems to me that the unity of which the Motu Proprio speaks is undermined by such an approach.  Given what we have seen happening in the wake of Amoris laetitia, I wonder whether the next amputation of the Curia won’t occur at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.   Think about it.  What would happen were oversight of doctrine be devolved to conferences of bishops?  Yes, conferences now have doctrinal committees.  Results vary.  I think that would be disastrous.

Next, speaking of doctrine, liturgy is doctrine.  Change the way we pray and you change what people believe.  That is the inexorable principle of lex orandi lex credendi.

The next problem is that the English translation of the rite for ordinations is going on.  What’s going to happen with that?  Will different conferences come up with their own versions which may or may not say the same things?  How will that be worked out of the Holy See can’t intervene in the translation process to provide for unity?

Finally, the document doesn’t specifically address this point, but, as I have written elsewhere, will the Supreme Pontiff continue to reserve to him the approval of translations of forms of sacraments?   [See the UPDATE below.] Hitherto, only the Pope can approve, for example, the translations of the forms of consecration in the Holy Mass.  You might recall the massive debates surrounding the translation of pro multis for the consecration of the Precious Blood.  Benedict XVI mandated personally that the vernacular translations must accurately reflect the Latin.  Conferences defied him.   If that pontifical reservation is reversed, we might – no – will see divergent forms of consecration from country to country.  Will the Congregation hold firm if the Pope doesn’t want to reserve to himself the translation of sacramental forms?

UPDATE: I read in the NOTE:

The “confirmatio” is an authoritative act by which the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments ratifies the approval of the Bishops, leaving the responsibility of translation, understood to be faithful, to the doctrinal and pastoral munus of the Conferences of Bishops. In brief, the “confirmatio”, ordinarily granted based on trust and confidence, supposes a positive evaluation of the faithfulness and congruence of the texts produced with respect to the typical Latin text, above all taking account of the texts of greatest importance (e.g. the sacramental formulae, which require the approval of the Holy Father, the Order of Mass, the Eucharistic Prayers and the Prayers of Ordination, which all require a detailed review).

That answers a couple questions.





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  1. acardnal says:

    Thanks again for adding that Print button to your desktop version!

  2. Giuseppe says:

    In 2013, twenty years before the 2000th anniversary of the Resurrection, a newly elected Bishop of Rome had a choice. Pursue Christian unity by greater closeness to the East (healing the breaches from Chalcedon and 1054) or greater closeness with the Protestant revolution communities.

    Benedict clearly was casting his lot with the East – orthodox (in all senses) Christians with an ancient liturgy and traditional gender/sexuality morality. I think Francis is casting his lot with the protestants and making Rome some loose leader of a “diverse” range of beliefs.

    This is a sweeping generalization, but one cannot do both. I believe Francis is making a big mistake, but we shall see what his successor will do.

  3. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    Is it unfair to ask why His Holiness will issue this motu proprio to clarify part of the Canon Law, but not answer in 5 words the Dubia?

  4. Austin says:

    Putting the vitally important liturgical questions aside for a minute, the decentralisation that Father notes is a clear and present danger.

    I am a former Anglican. Having no central authority, our communion was ripped apart by rogue provinces (led by the Americans) which unilaterally changed liturgical norms, then discipline, and then doctrine. The weight of having one rich and powerful progressive province distorted the whole communion and pulled it in a revisionist direction until the tension grew too great and the communion was ripped apart.

    It is clear that the Germans wish to resume their role, assumed at the Council, of being the Church’s progressive pressure bloc. If they persist, other like-minded conferences, in Latin America particularly, will join them. The US church will be horribly divided. There may be international schism.

    Pope Francis is on record as saying that he may go down in history as the one who divided the church. Given his admiration for Luther, and the force of his policies, it appears that this is an ambition rather than an unfortunate corollary of his pontificate.

    We are seeing an unprecedented crisis in the life of the Church. When the guarantor of orthodoxy and unity becomes an agent of dubious opinion and division, the whole edifice of the Church Militant is put at risk.

  5. Charles E Flynn says:

    The old KGB and the Masons working together could not have contrived a simpler, more cost-effective way of enabling officially-sanctioned mischief.

  6. frjohnt says:

    The problem will be — as it has been with every liturgical decision left to the Bishops Conferences — that individual priests will begin to retranslate/reword on their own. Then, the free style will more and more replace the ritual prayers. Finally, because it is will have become so widespread, the Bishops Conferences will have to accept what’s going on.
    Authority will devolve to the bottom.
    Remember Communion in the hand … female altar servers…washing of feet…
    Within ten years, or fewer, the words used at Mass will be left totally to the whim of the celebrant.

  7. Maineman1 says:

    For Ordinary Form parishes in the United States, I’m guessing that this portends a return simple-minded Third Grade Grammar missals.

  8. I am reminded of a scene from one of the later Harry Potter films, in which Hermione tells Harry — who is discouraged by recent events, and begins pulling away from his friends — that that is exactly what the enemy wants: to isolate those who oppose him from each other.

    This is discouraging; nevertheless, do not be discouraged! We know whose aim that is.

    Now, with this reality, it seems it’s time for “Hagan lio.” Now that the bishops will be in the driver’s seat on these matters, the time has come for the faithful to speak out…LOUDLY. My suggestion is that there need to be lay organizations that will closely track the progress of each and every liturgical translation project. They should seek to attend meetings, ask for progress reports, and publicize matters far and wide. The faithful have a right to know, don’t they? Full, active and conscious participation, right? Whose liturgy is this? Whose?

    The bishops want to make these decisions? They should be hearing from the faithful, who will be on them to assure fidelity.

    When the final decision was being made in Rome, this was harder. When it’s made in Washington, it’s less hard.

    Time to hagan lio!

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  9. majuscule says:

    While my bishop is leading the diocese in a direction that I will follow with zeal, he has a lot of pushback. And I worry about some of the other bishops here in the US.

    I was watching a livestream of the opening of a USCCB meeting not long ago. It was held in a large meeting hall. While an opening prayer was being recited, the camera panned around the room, zooming in on various bishops. How telling that some continued to talk to each other (they certainly weren’t praying at each other–one could tell). Others did not seem to have a prayerful attitude, but then who am I to judge–they could have been praying silently while doodling on the paper in front of them or gazing around the room. I was heartened by the men with heads bowed and hands clasped in prayer. My bishop was one of those. You could see his lips moving. He wasn’t just putting on a show. I know the man.

    I’m worried about the guys who didn’t seem to be…how shall I put it…actively participating. So they are going to be having great input on our liturgical texts?

  10. Marko says:

    The not attached to the motu proprio says:
    ” In brief, the “confirmatio”, ordinarily granted based on trust and confidence, supposes a positive evaluation of the faithfulness and congruence of the texts produced with respect to the typical Latin text, above all taking account of the texts of greatest importance (e.g. the sacramental formulae, which require the approval of the Holy Father, …”

    So the answer to your question of preservation the approval of sacramental formulae to the Holy Father is yes.

  11. FrAnt says:

    On the bright side, this sad situation just might encourage priests, including myself, to learn Latin and the Traditional Latin Mass.

  12. Rich says:

    The intelligence of anyone with reading comprehension skills is insulted by the very selective reference in this document to Sacrosantum Concilium. As if we need such reference to SC in order to help us know what it really says about the matter; however, if we come away from reading SC with a different understanding of how Latin and/or the vernacular are to be used in the liturgy, then we must be missing something. I’ll tell you what we’re missing…the spirit of the letter, right? In which case, it is clear that honest reading of SC really didn’t really inform the principles guiding this document, but agenda. But, if those of us with reading comprehension skills have something else to say about what SC says, then we really must not be understanding it properly.

  13. chantgirl says:

    Between this and AL, I’m getting a pretty strong “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” vibe.

  14. SenexCalvus says:

    At the risk of likewise being accused of nitpicking, I don’t see how the ablative ‘unitate’ can be construed as the direct object of ‘refulgeant’. (Is ‘refulgeo’ even transitive?) My guess is that the Latin means something more along the lines of “shine because of the unity of the Roman Rite.” In other words, the translations will not “illuminate (i.e., bear witness to) the unity of the Roman Rite [because of their fidelity],” but will be excellent in themselves by virtue of the unity of the Roman Rite. This unity, then, is the cause of the action, not its object. I am reminded of Pope Bergoglio’s assurance that he, as Peter, would be the guarantor of the orthodoxy of the teachings produced by the Synod on the Family, a promise that proved to be shameless ipsedixitism.

    Do I make too much of the absence of an -m? I certainly hope so. Latinistae, ad adiuvandum me festinate!

  15. Uxixu says:

    All this effort appears to be such a regrettable waste… for hundreds of years, all the way through the 1950’s, little to no effort had to be expended on “updated” texts. The Missal and Breviary were all venerable and, calendar changes and rubrics aside, stable for hundreds of years.

    One can only pray at some point, a future Pope will recognize that Sacrosanctum Concilium is not at all contradictory to the anathema of Trent on any who would require the ENTIRE Mass to be in the vernacular and that “wider use” doesn’t mean “totality.” It makes a certain amount of sense for the propers to be in the vernacular (though one would argue the ancient of tradition of chanting for the Epistle and Gospel should remain, but the Ordinary should always be in Latin, to include the Canon, in the Latin Rite.

  16. Imrahil says:

    Benedict XVI mandated personally that the vernacular translations must accurately reflect the Latin.  Conferences defied him.

    It is only fair to say that, for all our love of the Pope Emeritus, there is no such thing as a Pope defied by an Episcopal Conference.

    If the Pope finds the Episcopal Conference unwilling to change the translation of “pro Multis” to an accurate one, then he can order the next translation to contain an accurate one, unmistakably. As he has. The obvious next step is that the Episcopal Conference, quit logically, will keep the old translation as long as the Pope lets them. Consequently, the Pope will have to withdraw his approval, making it clear in unmistakable terms that whoever celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass in the now disapproved vernacular commits a mortal sin; there’s Latin, and there will be (e. g.) German once the Episcopal Conference has stopped to play games. (An alternative path, but one I guess more difficult to implement and control, is to change the words directly by papal order.) This now will probably be ignored again. The next step is latae sententiae suspensions or excommunications, apostolic Visitations, deposition of bishops and the like. (To begin with, the Episcopal Conference itself is a juridical person and can, as such, be dissolved.)

    That the Pope lets himself be defied may perhaps be defended (on prudential grounds), but in any case the Episcopal Conference cannot defy a Pope unless the Pope lets himself be defied.

    The decision of a Pope to persuade rather than command may be defended; but he cannot reasonably expect that just because he doesn’t use the power he has, the opponent he would have to subdue with his power will retreat willingly. Just as it may be defended that a Council does not use the power it has (viz. to dogmatize); but it cannot then expect that just because it didn’t its recipients will treat everything it didn’t dogmatize as a dogma; but I digress.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Dear Uxixu,

    The Missal and Breviary were all venerable and, calendar changes and rubrics aside, stable for hundreds of years.

    Frankly, this is a big “set aside”. The new rule of Pius X. that Sundays outrank minor doubles etc. (to which class by a great deal the most of our III class feasts belonged) was a major revolution in practice, even though it can be formulated so briefly. The yearly circle which so many comments on the EF focus on, the Exposition of Scripture and so on did stand on the books for all those centuries, but only Pius X’s Reform made this a practical reality (whether now that was a good or a bad move). In the 19th century, People only saw a green chasuble a handful of times per year, if so often.

  18. EVERYONE: You may be frustrated and anxious, but keep angry or nasty comments about Pope Francis to yourselves. They don’t help anything and I don’t want them in my combox. This isn’t the Fishwrap combox where cowards can spew invective at anyone for any reason. Be better than that.

  19. Sixupman says:

    Franciscus cementing the principle of ‘national churches’ within Catholicism(?)! Chaos ensues, National Bishops’ Conferences can construct translations to their own ends.

    [But Rome still has to approve them… or not. We’ll see what happens.]

  20. Kerry says:

    May this writer suggest that from henceforth, Vatican II be heard and read, both silently and aloud as “Vatican Eleven”, as Vatican Eleven is, has gone, is going and will forever be going “up to eleven”.

  21. I really, really hate and despise that whole concept of hagan lio. Consider what this is at bottom. It is a concept that only the men in the hierarchy can love who are bored with leading their flocks to pasture beside still waters. But it is peace and justice that the flocks need. I am sick to death of being “shaken up.” The world that I have to engage daily in my high-stress profession shakes me up enough, and hace all the lio I can stand, and I know I am not alone. All we in the pews want is to be able to give God the worship He is due in peace, and to be strengthened for our work of bringing the Gospel into the secular world, without being rocked by explosions week after week.

  22. gracie says:

    For those out there intimidated by the idea of understanding the Latin Mass:

    You do know that you don’t have to have years of Latin to “get” the Latin Mass? When an older generation were children, how did they figure out what the words meant while they sat through Mass? They had Missals, with the Latin on one side and the English on the other. Children were often bored, not understanding what was being said so, being children, they found something else to do. That something else was to look at the Latin – look at the English – look back at the Latin – and try to figure out what different words meant. “Glory” – that has to be “Gloria”. “Deo” – that has to be “God” because they’re both capitalized. “In” looks like “In”. That leaves “excelsis” – that has to be “heaven” because that’s the only word left. “Mea culpa” is said three times – “through my fault” is said three times – so they must be the same and “culpa” sounds like “culpable” so that has to be fault which leaves “mea” to be “my”. There’s a “grievous” on the right and a “maxima” on the left so they must be the same. So after a while when the priest said those Latin words the children found mirabile dictu! – that they could understand them. It was as simple as that. So don’t worry about not knowing the syntax and declensions of Latin. Just go back and forth between the English and the Latin words in the Missal you’re going to buy and after a few weeks you’ll have it – you’ll understand what the priest is saying and what you’re saying and you can enter into the worship easy peasy. Be like a little child – as Jesus might say – and those mythical difficulties that Magnum Principium refers to will evaporate.

  23. Fr Z., could a future Pope (Francis’ immediate successor perhaps) reverse this? [Of course.] If this is a canonical change, can the present discipline be restored? What are the chances of that?

  24. tskrobola says:

    This is probably less about liturgical “reform” and more about empowering Episcopal Conferences, thought the liturgy will undoubtedly suffer from silliness and division as a result.

    The next Pope is going to have to make a series of decisions about where he wants to position ECs in the decision-making life of the Church.

  25. tskrobola says:

    It’s pretty obvious that Francis has had the Curia in his sights from day 1….seems like a lot of what Francis has done is to position the Pope and the ECs to disempower Curial officials.

    I wonder where this leaves individual conservative bishops? It seems that JPII + Benedict avoided disciplining bishops unless it was absolutely necessary; Francis seems more comfortable with meting out discipline, but I would assume that most Popes (including Francis) would still rather avoid bopping heads. I wonder if the next step would be to empower ECs to have disciplinary powers over bishops.

  26. tskrobola says:

    Wait about 20 years and this entire baby boomer generation and mentality will be gone. What will remain (and what predated the baby boomers) is a fundamental Marxist worldview that pervades many chanceries and guides how many bishops act, especially liberal ones.

    The next great Pope will have to work to completely excise Marxist thought and philosophy from the Vatican and from the hierarchy of the church in general.

    [I dunno. I’m pretty optimistic about young priests whom I’ve met.]

  27. tskrobola says:

    BTW, when I say “many bishops”, I mean more than a few, but I doubt whether a majority of bishops are de facto or de jure Marxists…tho it’s possible.

  28. sw85 says:

    What’s the over/under on the USCCB reverting us to the old crummy ICEL translation, or developing something similar to it?

    [Nah… zero chance.]

  29. Lavrans says:

    Run, don’t walk, to your nearest TLM or Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (OCSP) parish. If you are in the Twin Cities area, stop over at All Saints in Northeast Minneapolis (FSSP) or St. Bede the Venerable (OCSP) at Holy Family Parish in St. Louis Park. All Saints has the EF Latin Mass everyday. St. Bedes has the Ordinariate English Mass, which is akin to the EF Mass in beautiful English, at 5pm on Sunday nights. Maybe other commenters could post their local TLM or OCSP parishes here too? Perhaps our gracious host could create a list or an app for finding them? That would be awesome!

  30. theloveofwisdome says:


    What bearing does this document have, if any, on the translation of the TLM (Extraordinary Form) and its celebration in the vernacular???

    ~A seminarian.


  31. JTH says:

    Re: Latin.

    Shouldn’t a universal church have a universal language, and shouldn’t the church services for that universal church be held in the universal language?

  32. Matthew Gaul says:

    There could be some good here. In the Eastern churches, the various translating bodies keep each other honest. When the Ruthenians retranslated the Divine Liturgy several years ago, a lot of folks who didn’t like it simply started attending Ukrainian or Melkite parishes, when possible. And those who stayed can point to all of the other uses of that liturgy in hopes of eventually harmonizing it more.

    With this new arrangement, in the Latin Church, if you’re on the border of two jurisdictions, you’ll now have two more uses to choose between.

    And I can imagine a scenario where migration will lead to parishes created to serve the local immigrant community.

    So if you live in an area with a large immigrant community, you could have a dozen different uses to choose from. If your own local translation is lousy, perhaps the parish serving traditional / conservative immigrants will be to your liking.

    That’ll take a while, though.

  33. RichR says:

    No way I’m buying the updated translation of the Liturgy of the Hours if it may become obsolete in a few years due to “translation tweaking”. People will just use a free app, or use a Latin version of the Office so they can grow old with it.

  34. scholastica says:

    There is one and it’s awesome…TLMfinder

  35. Peter in Canberra says:

    a small silver lining is it may push some towards the traditional Mass. That is basically how I arrived at it in 1993. The then Archbishop of Adelaide (Australia) had promulgated his own English translations of some texts of the ordinary, including a probably heretical version of the Creed. The Latin Mass gained quite a few people who were not prepared to stomach this.
    However, I think that vein has been already pretty heavily mined, so the flow to ‘us’ might not be as great as it once would have been.

  36. Traductora says:

    Frankly, I’m with whoever it was up thread (Frjohnt, I think it was) who said that in ten years, every priest (every NO priest, that is) will be making it up as he goes along. This whole MP was exactly like the horrible, vague, unclear documents of VII and was intended to have the same effect: undermine traditional authority and the authority of tradition, make things so unclear that people weren’t even sure what position they should take, and basically give the go-ahead to the VII band of cronies.

    It will soon have its own “Spirit of the Motu Propio.” And it’s no mistake that he’s done it this way, because Francis wants his own MP to supplant that of BXVI. Also, as I have said on several occasions, I think the reason he was sort of courting the SSPX was because to him the Mass really doesn’t matter – as long as people are under his thumb and listening to the social gospel and worshipping the UN, he doesn’t care what they do at Mass.

    Personally, I have no objection to translating the Mass into a vernacular language – much beauty came out of the early translations into English, which were used by the Anglicans and are the source-text for much English poetry up to the mid-20th century. Still, Latin should remain the official language of the Church, and anyone who wishes to be a priest or rise in the Church in any way should be competent enough to learn it to a communicative level (that is, speaking is now pretty rare, but they should be able to read and write Latin).

    But I always think we have to address the main problem with the NO, which nobody seems to want to discuss: is it just that it’s in the vernacular, or is it that it is the NO? In other words, is it the language or the thing itself that is the problem. I think the problem is the NO and everything surrounding it, regardless of the language. So no matter how they translate it, it will never be completely successful, and the reason even the flakiest clown mass priest in the world wants to do his own thing is simply that the NO doesn’t work.

  37. Gratias says:

    Individual bishops should use their own authority and not delegate it to these amorphous Bishop Conferences the outdated Vatican II Council logic pushes on us. Here in California so much hard work was invested in bringing back the Traditional Mass that we do not want to return to 1968. -For all and also with you will be back. We will have to take it like real men, hold hands and enjoy the tambourine music. Arghhh.

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  39. Sue in soCal says:

    In the spirit of this Motu Proprio, shouldn’t the local Episcopal Conferences have decided on their own version of the title for this document?

  40. CharlesG says:

    That Note makes clear that the Pope certainly expects the CDWDS recognitio to be a rubber stamp and that the current practice of Rome’s approving the final text with changes, which I believe is provided for in Liturgiam authenticam, will not continue. Given the shenanigans of bishops’ conferences, e.g. the Germans, Maltese and Argentinians on Amoris laetitia, I don’t see why it should be presumed they will be faithful and orthodox.

  41. Grant M says:

    I was wondering a few days ago why the Indonesian Mass continued to say the equivalent of “for all” as its translation of “pro multis”, long after English-language Masses had been corrected to “for many”. Then the above post gave me the answer: Episcopal Conferences.

    But now I gather from the post that the Pope must approve all translations relating to sacramental forms. So that gives me a simple way of assessing the effectiveness of this MP. I’ll give it about a year, then listen carefully during the Indonesian Mass to see what words they are using to translate “pro multis”. As Father Z points out, this is one term that must be carefully guarded.

  42. tskrobola says:

    Fr. Z – regarding my comment about eradicating Marxism, that comment is not aimed at younger priests generally….let me clarify:

    – Marxist theory pervades Catholic education and also chanceries today. Those in power never really credit Marx for their leftist ideology, but it’s at least de facto Marxist (so let’s call it leftism)
    – The baby boomer proponents/adherents of leftism will be dead in 20 years;
    – The younger generation of clergy gives me a lot of reason to believe that they are faithful and NOT leftist;


    – Even the younger generation of lay Catholic leadership in education and health care are pretty left of center;
    – The younger generation of clergy and laypeople of all stripes in all Catholic settings will have worked/lived in environments pervaded and in many cases dominated by left-leaning leadership;
    – Catholic education and health care is likely to continue to be dominated by leftist thinking.

    So your average Generation X/Y bishop is going to still need good (and specific) teaching and leadership from the Vatican to “turn the ship” of Catholic thought and practice **definitively and permanently** away from leftism and towards Christ, even long after the baby boomer leftists are gone.

  43. tskrobola says:

    Catholic leftism is a reflection of the leftism that pervades secular institutional thinking in government, education, health care, and so on. It’s a virus in society that will take centuries to get under control and eradicate….in my opinion, the Church is the only institution that will be able to lead that struggle, thanks be to God.

    There is a pretty big cleavage between Generation X/Y Catholic clergy and their lay Catholic (and especially non-Catholic) counterparts in this regard….younger lay Catholics are much more likely than their younger clerical counterparts (though maybe a little less likely than their secular counterparts) to embrace leftism.

    Generation X/Y Catholic clergy are going to be fighting more than a century of societal shift towards leftism in the west (and throughout the world), and of leftist “hangover”, especially in the form of some of the statements and directives from of this current Pontificate.

    It’s not improbable in my opinion that another left-of-center Pope is elected after Francis too, possibly a younger/nicer one in the mold of Tagle. We could be in for a struggle with the Papacy for a while.

    I hope it turns around sooner than later, but it took a long time to eradicate Arianism too.

    All in God’s time; His will be done.

  44. RichR says:

    Let’s not lose sight of the goal here. Your goal is to get you and your family (and as many others as possible) to Heaven. If we get perfect Liturgy but we go to Hell, what has it mattered?

    Stay true to your devotions (Rosary, Breviary, mental prayer), go to Confession, mental prayer, make spiritual sacrifices, teach your kids the Faith, and be of good cheer. Christ had already won the spiritual battle. Don’t be glum.

    The future actually looks really good! Mediocre Liturgy does not kill religion in your children when you have inoculated them with orthodoxy. They will be fine. Look at the Irish Catholics during the Elizabethan persecution. They had poor Liturgy but the Faith survived the murdering, the silencing, the taunting. They died for the Faith.

    So, maybe your battle cry should be, “Remember the Irish!” Consider listening to the talk by Michael Davies entitled “They died for the Mass.”

    It’s inspiring.

  45. EmilB says:

    Just very discouraged. I’ll just keep praying. His will be done.

  46. Henry Edwards says:

    Is this development not of minimal significance and little to no practical effect in English-speaking countries (e.g., the U.S.)? Where the new English translation has generally been well-received with the 2011 Roman Missal 3e firmly established, and in any event there surely is little appetite among the bishops for any renewal of the protracted translation disputes of the past.

  47. TonyO says:

    That the Pope lets himself be defied may perhaps be defended (on prudential grounds), but in any case the Episcopal Conference cannot defy a Pope unless the Pope lets himself be defied.

    Imrahil, this is true enough. The popes, starting with Paul VI and right through Benedict were far too lax in exercising their authority, which ultimately should have included excommunicating priests and bishops who would not obey. Because of the old dictum “authority not exercised is lost” (in the practical sense, not a formal sense), current popes will have a lot of trouble even TRYING to exercise their authority.

    Here’s the problem: especially in old Europe, and even here in the US, a bishop’s local power (which is distinct from his authority) starts to be real when he is ordained a bishop and installed as ordinary…but it does not continue only so long as he remains uncensured. If the Pope tries to excommunicate (just for example) a whole group of German bishops, and they refuse to leave their chanceries, the Pope has no local power to force them out. He can try to push matters by appointing new bishops for those dioceses, but those new men will have to rely on local (secular) authorities to judge which of the two men gets the right to live in the chancery and control the parish assignments and issue documents as if he were “the bishop”. Here in the US, a bishop heads up a “corporation sole” in secular legal terms, and it is up to secular authorities to recognize or not this or that claimant to the corporation.

    You end up with actual schism.

    Now, that may in fact be just what is necessary to deal with the mess. We have been living just this side of a de facto schism for 40 years, maybe it needs to come out of hiding and be clear-cut. But beware: you may find yourself 400 miles from a lawful bishop and parish.

    It is possible, for a pope who really means business, to succeed in exercising his authority, but he will have to do it carefully. For example, by getting rid of isolated bishops – just 3 or 4 at a time, never in the same country, always (initially) under a metropolitan who supports the pope, etc. After 5 years, and 30 bishops have been replaced, it will be much easier. In fact, at some point the truly foresighted pope at that point would pick on a bishop who will try to resist – just to push the issue and show how the pope can use the resources at his disposal (which, though mainly still rely on OTHER PEOPLE who surround the renegade bishop agreeing to go along with whatever mandates the pope gives them) to effectively force a renegade out. But, again, it has to be isolated, especially at first.

  48. Jim Dorchak says:

    The Catholic Church is no longer catholic (Universal).


  49. anj says:

    I am surprised that you (Fr. Z) are able to keep it together so well. This is kryptonite to “What does the prayer really say?”, with slavishly accurate translations. A direct papal hit to the slow return of centralized liturgy. It marks the swift return of dynamic equivalent translation from the Episcopal Conferences, and we all know it.

    [Would panicking help? Would wailing and whining help? Would overreactions and paroxyms help? First, the Pope’s document did NOT eliminate the norms of Liturgiam authenticam. They are still in force. The English speaking world is not going to do another overhaul. The first one was long and bloddy. Can you imagine another? Calm down, everyone. Yes, this is less than good development, but it isn’t, in itself, some kind of disaster.]

  50. Chrisc says:

    So I have a question. If it is up to the Episcopal conference to determine the translation…then the Spanish translation of the mass in the US – should the US bishops do their own translation, follow the Mexican conference, the South American, or the Spanish? For French….the Quebecois or from France? Or to flip the shoe- in Italy, will the approved English text be American or the Queen’s (because surely the Italians won’t do their own)?

    My larger point is this, Bishop’s conferences are necessarily politically influenced, because their raison d’etre is to develop common ideas within a certain political sphere (countries or groups of countries). States come into conflict with one another, either directly or indirectly. Bishops conferences, as they accrue more and more power, will come into more and more conflict. Thus like many heresies, they will come to embody the very opposite of what they began as – they were to bring the Church into new avenues into the various countries of the world, but they will become places where political entities want to be more involved to gain control over a portion of the people of God. I mean think of it. If you were a third world dictator, might you not want to affect the language used in your local catechism? Or if you were a first world German, would you not want to affect the same?

  51. Giuseppe says:

    Is Cardinal Sarah still head of the CDWDS? [Yes, sure he is.]

    I hope he does not step down over this, and I hope the Pope does not remove him.

  52. Tom A. says:

    I agree Jim, where is the unity of faith. Kapser and Marx say one thing and Burke and Schneider say the opposite.

  53. jflare says:

    So, in very brief summary, the bishops conferences in each nation will each develop their own translations of the Mass. [According to the norms laid down in Liturgiam authenticam, which is not cancelled.] Barring compelling reason to intervene, such translations will be approved. Such would mean that within a few years, Britain, Canada, the US, Australia, and India will each have their own differing renditions of the same Mass. …Or do Ireland and Scotland each have their own conferences independent of England? Such could mean more translations. …It just occurred to me that most nations south of the US speak…Spanish. Logically then, we’ll have (at least) 5 different English translations of Mass, roughly 21 Spanish translations, at least two of German (Germany and Austria), and so forth.

    I’m not entirely following how we’re going to have a universal Church develop from this. [Most English language conferences have banded together to share the work. That;s what ICEL is. This change didn’t break ICEL apart.]

    I think I’ll stick with the traditional Mass.

  54. jflare says:

    “This change didn’t break ICEL apart.”

    It may not need to. If you remember the early 90’s, you might recall the “need” to alter texts so that masculine pronouns like “He” or “Father” would be replaced exclusively with “God”. Such because some of the ladies insisted that doing otherwise excluded them. To my knowledge, such was never officially approved, but someone like myself didn’t know that, so we couldn’t refuse. If this doesn’t eliminate ICEL, it would seem to vigorously undermine a conference’s incentive to comply.

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  56. erick says:

    Perhaps this is precisely why he does not answer the dubia. He intends for it to be interpreted at the level of the bishops conferences. Maybe we’ll get a statement to that effect?

  57. Imrahil says:

    Dear TonyO,

    of Course what you write makes sense. Still,

    If the Pope tries to excommunicate (just for example) a whole group of German bishops, and they refuse to leave their chanceries, the Pope has no local power to force them out.

    I don’t know about the United States, but I do know about Germany. Here the owner, or (as far as the buildings go) perhaps tenant, of the chanceries is “the Roman Catholic diocese of Exampletown”. The Roman Catholic diocese of Exampletown is ruled by its bishop as according to Canon law. If the Pope deposes him and installs a new bishop, or Apostolic Administrator, then that would be the latter. The Church can call the German Police to through out the deposed office-holders.

    (There is actually precedent on this. The Greek community of St. Salvator’s Church, Munich, refused to follow their own Church’s in introducing the new calendar, with the effect that the Greek Orthodox Church of Germany withdrew her mission, and so on, and wanted the building back. There was a lawsuit all the way up to the Constitutional Court, and the final decision reads rather interesting with all its: “The Greek Orthodox Church declared her position as follows… The Community of St. Salvator’s, Munich, declared its position as follows… The Minister for Religious Affairs, Bavaria, declared his position as follows… The Russian Orthodox Church gave notice of her opinion to the Court, which was the following… The Serbian Orthodox Church gave notice of her opinion to the Court, which was the following… The Roman Catholic Conference of Bishops for Germany gave notice of her opinion to the Court, which was the following… [and I guess even]: The Evangelical Church of Germany gave notice of its opinion to the Court, which was the following… The Federal Minister for the Interior gave notice of their opinion to the Court, which was the following…”, with the rather interesting fact that old-Calendarian Russians and Serbs sided with new-Calendarian Greeks and not with old-Calendarian split-off Greeks. But in any case the regular Greek Orthodox Church did get the building back.)

  58. Semper Gumby says:

    Thank you Fr. Z and commenters.

  59. Ranger01 says:

    The Council uber alles. Always the council. Nothing counts but the Council.
    Look, what’s left of the pewsitters know exactly what is coming. Fast and loose P/C wordings.
    Anything that can be changed will be changed to suit the times. The bishop of Rome and his lieutenants know this and welcome it.
    Bet on it.

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