Mostly negative reactions to new missal in New Zealand

The controversial new translation of the Roman Missal was introduced in the Catholic Church in New Zealand in September by first implementing the Order of Mass with the people’s parts. The proper texts of the priest will come into use at Pentecost.

The editors of the New Zealand Catholic are making a valiant effort to promote the translation (e.g. the editorial “New English requires an honest effort,” February 13), but the letters to the editor are running solidly negative. Since late December 2010, only one letter to the editor has been somewhat supportive. Bernice Keenan wrote in the Dec. 25-Jan. 29 issue:

I am pleased with the new translation of the Mass text… I have to think a bit more about the responses and forge new habits, and that’s fine.

But she says of the implementation:

I believe the imposition of the new version was a false step initially. It has led to disunity in the wider Catholic community. This is particularly evident at weddings and funerals with other Christians and/or lapsed Catholics.

She also objects to the inclusion of two options for the wording of the Lord’s Prayer:

The Lord’s Prayer, which should be a point of familiarity and connections becomes the opposite.

This is the closest thing to support in any readers’ letters.

Three critical letters appeared in the Jan. 30-Feb. 12 issue. Teresa Homan writes, referring to “I” replacing “We” in the creed,

I fail to see how this translation is more meaningful, but I see how individualistic it requires my faith to be. It would be good, also to understand the meaning behind the words “come under my roof.” What “roof”? My house roof, the church roof, the roof of my mouth? Likewise, perhaps a dictionary meaning beside the word consubstantial for the ordinary folk may assist our understanding.

Tony Scott writes in the same issue:

Just take the word “men” in contrast to “us all.” Surely there is a sense of exclusion there. Perhaps some obscure group of theologians can interpret it to include all mankind, but the ordinary person accepts it as meaning what it says – “men” denotes members of the male sex. It smacks of being a long-past historical attitude that prevailed when women were not counted… It can only be regarded with regret that so much time and resources were poured into this venture by the Church when there are so many causes crying out for attention.

Patricia Minehan writes:

These changes of wording in the Mass liturgy are, for many of us, frustrating and backward in thinking. For the resultant text, was the time and cost expended truly merited?… Will these latest changes increase our devotion, enlarge our congregations, or inspire our youth? We have no such expectations and we wonder where our priorities lie.

In the Feb. 13-16 issue the paper ran an editorial by Fr. Peter Janssen, “New translation of the Mass superior in many ways.” He argues that the new translation is more accurate and that it is superior to the current translation in its style, register, formality, and other literary features. This give the new text its “attitude, depth, timelessness, and, eventually, effectiveness.” He states:

A full appreciation of the improvements will have to wait until the collects, prefaces, and other prayers said by the priest are promulgated later this year.

The same issue has a letter by June Macmillan:

The recent return to the pre-Vatican II concepts in the Sunday Eucharist has left me feeling deceived and confused… For a short 50 years, courtesy of Vatican II, we were permitted to be the people of God, made so by the format of our Sunday Eucharist, both in word and action. In one short year the work done by the Council has been negated…

Referring to “for us men and our salvation,” she writes:

We women must now adjust our sights to being servants of man, and his salvation, yet again… If the promulgation of Vatican II laid down the foundation of the future Church, how come some 50 years on some lesser body of officials can negate the bishops’ vision of the Church as communio and regress the pattern to the pre-Vatican II perception that men and their salvation are what the Church is authentically about?

Thanks to Rev. Bosco Peters of the Liturgy blog for sending us the letters.





70 responses to “Mostly negative reactions to new missal in New Zealand”

  1. Daniel McKernan Avatar
    Daniel McKernan

    What translation were they using for the credo? Didn’t they already have “for us men” in their version or is this the result of a certain laxity in liturgical discipline. If so, it is not the new translation that is at issue but poor liturgical discipline. The problem today is the result of poor pastoral decisions made locally in the recent past.

    Also, what two English language options do we have for the Pater noster? I was not aware of that. Does anyone here know?

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      I was wondering about both of these issues as well… this person apparently objects to the current translation (for us men and for our salvation…) as well. This isn’t a problem with the text, if you know what I mean. The comment about “under my roof” is a display of sheer ignorance…this is a direct scriptural reference that was obliterated in the current translation. There was obviously none of that “catechesis” done in this particular place.

      I am losing patience with those who have very valid objections, but for the wrong reasons. Gender inclusive, politically correct and theologically stripped prayers are readily available in a variety of ecclesial packages…

  2. Philip Endean SJ Avatar

    The experience of S. Africa (and NZ?) doesn’t yet include the Eucharistic Prayers. The foisting of the full text is likely to provoke considerably more disquiet.

    1. George Andrews Avatar
      George Andrews

      Father Endean,

      Have you ever bemoaned the way the 1973 text was foisted on us? If your answer is no, then it is tendentious to raise your voice now. There has to be another issue here, other than foisting. Otherwise all progressives would have screamed for more lay input way back then.

      Is the 1973 foisted text is superior to the 2010 foisted text?

      1. Russ Wheeler Avatar
        Russ Wheeler


        Let’s assume Fr. Endean is indeed a biased partisan as you suggest. How does that disprove his prediction that introduction of the new Eucharistic Prayers into masses in New Zealand will provoke more disquiet?

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        George, I can’t tell whether you think “foisting” is a good thing or not. Is it your argument that they did it in 1973, therefore it’s OK to do it now? Or, if it was a bad thing back then, why do you think it’s OK to “foist” now? Is this about getting even? Do two wrongs make a right?

      3. Philip Endean SJ Avatar

        I was in my late teens in the early 1970s. I don’t think there was any sense of a text being foisted on us–which for me is indeed a pejorative word–because the 1973 text went through due collegial process. To the extent that there was unhappiness, it was with the principle of a vernacular liturgy at all. The translation itself was accepted with general equanimity. Now we are dealing with a 1973 text which has been generally accepted by the PIP–and the change is coming because a Roman cabal has hijacked the process not once but twice to produce a text very different in flavour. The 1998 text is clearly superior to both 1973 and 2010–but the ideas of genuine collegiality, due process and decent English were clearly out of fashion by the time a Chilean friend of Pinochet was calling the shots in the CDW. The basic point is that Rome’s charism of promoting unity in the Church does not extend to telling the English-speaking bishops how to speak their own language–and the Catholic faith in the Church is brought into a disrepute it does not deserve when central authority abuses its power.

  3. Fr. Christopher Costigan Avatar
    Fr. Christopher Costigan

    In general, only people who dislike something tend to write letters to the editor. Those who are pleased or indifferent usually don’t. I would be very interested to see a more “scientific” survey of the results. In the United States, I wouldn’t put much stock into any letters to the editor penned in December, before a person has seen and heard the texts for some time. Any complaints written in the first week could very well have been written weeks before Advent. The first example points to the text itself and the implementation as two separate issues, which is a good way to think of it. A bad text can be implemented with a well-thought out plan, whereas the best text in the world can be implemented very poorly. Also, “for us men and our salvation” is in the Creed now. What is the change the last example is reacting against?

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Actually, I recall reading a German book on the liturgical renewal which said that the Holy Week reforms in the 1950s were met with resounding public approval, as seen in numerous letters to the editor across Germany. It caused a stir, and it was positive.

      1. George Andrews Avatar
        George Andrews

        yes, yes! but the current German translation is much more literal than the 1973 English. If our current translation even compared to the German- durch meine Schuld, durch meine Schuld,: durch meine große Schuld!–mit deinem Geiste— dass du eingehst unter mein Dach—hat Fleisch angenommen — etc. etc.

        then our bishops would not now be the pope’s whipping boys.

        to answer your question about two wrongs making a right….. you might have me there. It does irk me however that a principled opposition, such as Rindfleisch’s, Pinyan’s, and yourself’s is being used by people whose agenda is more like those German Theologians in the other string, or the Irish ACP.

    2. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      Fr. Christopher… Won’t ever happen for the same reason that there will never be actual “scientific” polling about liturgical music. Those who would have an interest in such polling would not support the conclusions. Sort of like Obama’s “Deficit Advisory Board”… don’t ask for hard data that you don’t want!

  4. EUGENE AHERN Avatar

    Why do we need authorised translations at all, let alone imposed translations that smack of the neo-gothic.
    Let’s get real!
    Did St. Thomas send back SMS messages to the “Vatican” to get the latest translations of the languages of the regions he passed through on his was to South India?
    The whole concept of centralised and controlled translations is bizarre in the extreme!
    It reminds me of how the spread of the gospel in China was castrated by the jealous Franciscans who used the Vatica’s power to hobble the Jesuits inspiring intiatives.
    Let’s all protest in the best way possible!
    Stop giving our money to support the discredited hierarchy!
    Eugene Ahern

  5. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    There’s got to be a better way to do surveys other than anecdotal evidence, letters to the editor (which are the worst) and blog comments (which are certainly not a good sample survey). Where’s Jack Rakosky when we need him. Of course, I think the sociological instrument should not be used until more of a comfort level has been attained, which means not doing the survey immediately but waiting about a year. Obviously people don’t like change if their comfort level is disturbed. Once comfortable they may have a different way of communicating likes and dislikes and in a non-reactionary way.

    1. Fr. Christopher Costigan Avatar
      Fr. Christopher Costigan

      I wouldn’t put that much into any early reaction–positive or negative. The sample size is too small and can easily be swayed by the attitude and speaking ability of the priest. A priest who is overly positive and spends time practicing and praying over the prayers can make bad texts sound better than they might be, and an overly negative priest who reads the texts for the first time at the Chair can make even the best translation sound horrible.

    2. Jack Rakosky Avatar
      Jack Rakosky

      Well Jack Rakosky has been here ever since I signed on to the blog almost a year ago after I signing the “Petition” once it reached 20000.

      I am glad, Father Allen, that after almost a year you seem to becoming around to my position that we need to gather data about this.

      However you do sound a lot like Augustine “Yes we need survey data, but not just now. Sometime in the distant future.”

      Since the New Zealanders have become our test group, we should just wait until they have been thoroughly studied before we decide whether or not to go forward with the implementation elsewhere.

      Your model appears to be “make a decision, then talk without listening, and finally if all else fails begin to listen.” My model is listen, then conversation based upon listening, and then action based upon reality not fantasy.

      If church management and theologians began listening and studying the experience of us pew dwellers, people of all ideologies would have to give up some of their cherished assumptions and ideas.

      That conviction comes from two decades of applied research in the public mental health system. All professionals have blinders that limit their effectiveness and the effectiveness of their organizations in major ways.

      1. Ray MacDonald Avatar
        Ray MacDonald

        The problem with using the New Zealanders (or for that matter the South Africans) as a test group is that in both countries there has only been a partial rollout of the new translation (the people’s parts.)
        The plan for the US is to introduce the whole enchilada, so results from the earlier introductions can only be projected – if in fact any statistically significant results are being generated at all.
        In any event I find it hard to believe that Marketing Research has played much of a part in the decision to roll things out, given the way it has happened so far.

  6. Jack Regan Avatar

    This is really interesting. I had been wondering how things were going down in New Zealand and this is probably the first decent data we have got. Sad times, I guess…

  7. George Andrews Avatar
    George Andrews

    Father Endean—The translation itself was accepted with general equanimity. Now we are dealing with a 1973 text which has been generally accepted by the PIP––

    not everyone, Father….

    Alec Guinness—-T]he banalities and translations which have ousted the sonorous Latin and Greek are of a supermarket quality which is quite unacceptable. Hand shaking and embarrassed smiles or smirks have replaced the older courtesies; kneeling is out, queuing is in, and the general tone is like BBC radio broadcast for tiny tots—–

    1. Russ Wheeler Avatar
      Russ Wheeler

      Alec Guinness:

      1. Great actor, but what was his expertise in translating Greek or Latin?

      2. Much opinion in this quote, but where are his substantive examples about the translations?

      1. George Andrews Avatar
        George Andrews


        I was replying to Father E’s assertion that the laity were just fine with the 1973 translation, and perhaps with the whole implementation of Vatican II.

        Guinness’ reaction was gut. As was that of tens of millions of faithful who simply left. Father E defends the collegiality of what was done. That process seems to have been a case of middle management being given a free hand to experiment as they like with those of us, like Guinness who are at the bottom of the pyramid.

      2. Philip Endean SJ Avatar

        I was aware of Guinness. The tone of this quotation suggests that he was against translations as such, rather than the particular ones we had–and that his real beef was about changes in gesture. And how are we going to adjudicate between my perception that he was in small and cranky minority of rather snobby Englishmen and George Andrews’ assertion that he was one of tens of millions?

  8. Bill Keane Avatar

    The main complaint I hear is the total disregard for the principle of subsidiarity. The quality or lack of it in the translation is secondary and can only be judged when we hear it. But its imposition by a curial caucus in Rome is a clear usurpation of the authority of the local bishop in his diocese.

    1. Elias Nasser Avatar
      Elias Nasser

      This, Bill, is the key to this whole problem. Rome does not trust the English speaking bishops to translate these texts

      The head of Vox Clara, Cardinal Pell, is on record as saying ‘“The notion of subsidiarity is radically incompatible with the hierarchical and communitarian nature of the church, …its fundamental flaw is the assumption that power comes from the people which is not the case in the church.”’

      Hence in essence his view is “everyone else should practice subsidiarity, but not us”

      1. Margaret O'Connor Avatar
        Margaret O’Connor

        What does “communitarian nature of the church” mean?
        I’m no doubt showing my ignorance here, but I would have thought that “heirachical” and “communitarian” were opposites.
        Reading the quote above, reminds me of Cardinal Newman saying that the Church would look silly without people (paraphrased).
        Is it the Church as a whole, or Cardinal Pell who is out of touch?
        I fear that Rome is moving backwards and the laity will count for nothing.

      2. Graham Wilson Avatar
        Graham Wilson

        Cardinal Pell’s opinion is in opposition to a fundamental principle of Catholic Social Teaching since Pope Pius XI.

        NCR has an insightful analyis by Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg, South Africa, in which the bishop uses subsidiarity to examine contemporary church leadership. Bishop Dowling has for many years been the bishop responsible of Justice and Peace for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

        Bishop Dowling’s analysis may give an insight into why Cardinal Pell finds subsidiarity threatening.

        Catholic social teaching finds church leadership lacking (by Kevin Dowling, CSsR. NCR, July 8, 2010).

  9. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
    Anthony Ruff, OSB

    I see that the supporters of the new translation have already worked out that negative reactions don’t matter much. I expect this tactic will serve them well in the coming year, and they will have much opportunity to apply it.

    1. George Jones Avatar
      George Jones

      Father, I support the new translations, if not the process by which they were adopted. That said, I don’t think immediate reactions are terribly important. The translations are different, and people are often uncomfortable with what’s different. I am interested in opinions a year from now, after 1) the novelty wears off; 2) there is (I hope) ample catechesis; and 3) people realize that Pope Benedict isn’t trying to dismantle Vatican II.

      1. Claire Mathieu Avatar
        Claire Mathieu

        It sounds as though you’re in agreement with the “What if we just said wait” website that advocated a one-year experiment on well-chosen parishes to see how the new missal would be received. Such a common-sense proposal!

      2. George Jones Avatar
        George Jones

        Not at all. The Church isn’t a democracy, and neither priests nor lay people are guaranteed a right of consultation before changes are enacted. That said, I would like to see opinion statistics on the new translation after a year of GOOD catechesis. Once people see there is a reason for the changes (e.g., the “under my roof” language comes straight from the Bible; the “for many” language reflects the view that Hell is real and not everyone will get into Heaven), I think opinions will improve.

        The Missal isn’t an “experiment”; it’s coming no matter how much people complain. The question now is whether priests will foster love for the Church or division within it by their teaching on the new Missal.

    2. Fr. Christopher Costigan Avatar
      Fr. Christopher Costigan

      I wasn’t sure if this comment was in reply to myself or Fr. Allen. If so, I don’t see how asking for more time and a broader sample instead of basing a judgment solely on a handful of angry letters to the editor is “having worked out that negative reactions don’t matter much.” As Father Allan has said several times, an accurate picture won’t available until some time has gone by and people experience the different texts proclaimed by different voices and set to different pieces of music. If a handful of people write to some publications in December and January stating that they like the translation, would that be enough evidence to conclude it is a success?

  10. EUGENE AHERN Avatar

    Why do we need authorised translations at all, let alone imposed translations that smack of the neo-gothic.
    Let’s get real!
    Did St. Thomas send back SMS messages to the “Vatican” to get the latest translations of the languages of the regions he passed through on his was to South India?
    The whole concept of centralised and controlled translations is bizarre in the extreme!
    It reminds me of how the spread of the gospel in China was castrated by the jealous Franciscans who used the Vatica’s power to hobble the Jesuits inspi8ring intiatives.
    Let’s all protest in the best way possible!
    Stop giving our money to support the discredited hierarchy!
    Eugene Ahern

  11. Andrea Woronick Avatar

    So much about this saddens me. I can’t seem to find an adequate answer as to why we are making these changes. At a time when our church needs healing, unity and solidarity, this seems as though it will cause anger and division. When there are so many important things to concentrate on and put our efforts towards, we are concentrating on words. And the references to Pre-Vatican II days really frightens me. My faith gives me the confidence that ‘all things work for the good for those who love God’. We must trust in the Holy Spirit.

    1. Graham Wilson Avatar
      Graham Wilson

      Yes, Andrea

      We’re entering a long shadow of disunity after 40 years of relative stability and unity in the English language liturgy.

      Most bishops in the English-speaking world do not realise how incredibly corrosive this translation and its imposition will be, particularly to their authority and credibility.

      It is a most unfortunate situation and utterly avoidable.

      For me, a sign of the Spirit at work will be how much of an “aha moment” it proves to be, for bishops, priests and people alike.

      1. Simon Ho Avatar
        Simon Ho


        My recollections of liturgies in the USA are anything but unity. I’ve got Sisters who have such a disdain for masculine terms for God that they drop all the he’s and him’s, in violation of the approved liturgical texts. I’ve got Priests who ad-lib their own presidential prayers, alters the Eucharistic Prayers, introduces novelties in the liturges, forbids people from kneeling at the Euchraistic Prayer, all in contravention of the norm.

        The shadow of disunity didn’t start with the new translation, or the past 20 years. It has a much longer root – all the way back to Adam and Eve, when they preferred to be like gods their own way.

        Don’t worry Andrea, there’s nothing terrifying about the Pre-Vatican II days. It is more terrifying when we sin, and tear at the unity of the Church despite the great love of God.

      2. Graham Wilson Avatar
        Graham Wilson

        Simon – I’m referring to the wider English-speaking world.

        This new translation will encourage ad hoc changes by pastors on a massive scale not seen before.

  12. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

    The recent return to the pre-Vatican II concepts in the Sunday Eucharist has left me feeling deceived and confused

    I’m curious what “pre-Vatican II concepts” the author of that letter was writing about. (Especially since Vatican II was about returning to the sources… so shouldn’t it have been restoring literally pre-Vatican II concepts?)

    I also find Eugene’s question “why do we need authorised translations?” to be missing the mark. Surely Eugene should be asking, “why do we need to translate someone else’s prayer texts at all?” And then every parish (or every Mass) is its own little ghetto of worship, clinging desperately to the moniker “Catholic”, emphasizing the “wide variety” rather than the “universality” of the Church.

    1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
      Joe O’Leary

      Vatican II was about returning to scriptural and patristic sources. The new translation has the musty air of decadent tridentinism. V2 also pitched its message to the Modern World. Nowhere doee the new translation show any awareness of the modern world.

      1. Simon Ho Avatar
        Simon Ho

        The 1973 translation masked many of the scriptural and patristic allusions. The new translation recovered them. In that sense at least, the new translation is carrying out the renewal of Vatican II that you stated.

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        Yes, to an extent. But note that the Vox Clara revision bleached out some of the Scriptural and Patristic references ICEL had given us. For example, the Collect for St. Benedict translates “dilatato corde” as “loving heart – an embarassing mistranslation of the Latin, and also a loss of a famous phrase from the Rule of Benedict.


      3. Simon Ho Avatar
        Simon Ho

        Ah yes, the text is certainly not perfect, especially since none of us are. But it cannot be denied that it did restore many of the allusions. In that sense, at least, it cannot be innimical to vision of liturgical renewal envisioned by Vatican II.

  13. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    The polite New Zealanders were supposed to find the “people’s parts” quite acceptable and thus be conditioned to welcome the “priest’s parts”.

    But this optimism has been quashed by the actual reaction.

    THe incredible display of excuses and dismissals by defenders of the new translation is par for the course.

    The faithful can see what is happening. They are being robbed of Vatican II.

    1. George Jones Avatar
      George Jones

      Joe, in that Sacrosanctum Concilium calls for use of both Latin and Gregorian chant in the Roman Rite, the People of God have long been denied the fruits of Vatican II.

      1. Joe O'Leary Avatar
        Joe O’Leary

        Sure, but at the same time John XXIII called for the restoration of Latin. His encyclical was a dead letter. The bishops of Vatican II discovered that it was impracticable to keep as much Latin as the Council in one of its many status quo ante statements desiderated. The actual fruit of Vatican II was a total vernacularization, implemented by the Pope and bishps of the Council itself. Gregorian chant has now only a minor aesthetic role in our liturgies, like motets in Latin. I believe that those who hark back to Latin are showing lack of faith in the power of the Gospel to communicate to the modern world.

      2. Simon Ho Avatar
        Simon Ho

        Ooh, Joe, that last line is a very serious accusation. I can only hope that you are not meaning what you wrote.

        One odd thing about Vatican II was it was supposed to strengthen Catholics to bring the Gospel to the rest of the world. But instead, much of the energies after Vatican II has been spent looking inward, over issues like liturgy, ecclesiology, doctrine. Don’t get me wrong, these are important, but it seems that as the Body of Christ, we are so fragmented that we no longer become a credible witness of Jesus in the world. Would that we would all be of one heart and mind, thinking one thing, in union with our Pope and Bishops!

      3. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        Simon Ho,

        I fully agree on the need for unity within the Catholic Church. I very much want beloved and credible bishops, heroic Popes, and faithful solidly united with their leaders. It’s good to know that we agree on this, across all other ideological divides.

        A difference between us might be in our evaluation of the present situation and the prospects of viable solutions. In my judgment, “Because I said so” from leaders does not work anymore, and will never work again in the history of humanity. Egypt and Tunisia and various Mideast countries are revealing something very important about the evolution of the human spirit.

        Catholic leaders presently do not have much credibility among the faithful. Pastors tell me that the Bishops are totally irrelevant to the lives of their most practicing members under age 50. Polls show that moral teachings of the Holy See are utterly irrelevant to the lives of most Catholics of all ages.

        A small group of conservative Catholics believes authority should assert itself more forcefully, and Catholics should be told more forcefully that they must obey. If I thought this had even the slightest chance of working, I might consider supporting it. But it doesn’t.

        The only solution I see is a new model of dialogue and participation and respect for laity, with checks and balances and accountability at all levels including the Holy See.

        Since there have been so many different models in the history of the Catholic Church, it is absurd to claim that the current model is unchangeable.



      4. Simon Ho Avatar
        Simon Ho

        Fr Ruff,

        I am reminded, by your comment, how there are also differing conceptions of authority within a family structure. Do parents demand respect simply because they are parents (elders), or whether do they demand respect only when they are “reasonable” by whoever’s standards. Certainly not easy questions to answer.

        My position is that we can (and should) put forward our arguments as much as we want and are able to, but when the decision is made by those with the authority that comes from Christ, obey with the greatest charity. Anything else comes from the Evil One.

  14. Tom Poelker Avatar

    No matter which side of the debate I am on, I am uncomfortable with ad hominem arguments such as bringing up Medina’s relationship with Pinochet. Let us stick with theological arguments and also use data rather than anecdotes when discussing the liturgy, please.

    Please also accept from this B.A. in Political Science and sometimes professional political staffer these accepted [but often not mentioned] truths among professional politicians.

    1. Unhappy people are more likely to write letters to politicians or news media than happy or apathetic people.

    2. People generally do not like change and initial reactions to any change are likely to be negative. The greater the change the greater the initial negative response.

    If you want an dependable and reasonably accurate survey of how people react to the new translation, you need to take a baseline survey about how they feel about the present translation. A second survey after at least five weeks of experience with the new texts would be informative, but most telling would be a survey about 15 to 18 months after original implementation, asking the same questions as in the baseline survey with the present translation. This requires a very careful composition of the questions so as to be applicable at both times and not bias the answers.

    1. CPK Smithies Avatar

      Wise words. I’ve been waiting to be polled on the existing liturgy for decades! So I’m looking forward to all these new polls and what they will “prove”.

  15. Tom Poelker Avatar

    Concerning reception of earlier translations of the Mass:

    If one were to look at what was published AT THE TIME, I think that it would be very hard to find much opposition to the quality of the first two Missal translations prepared for and approved by the bishops.

    For example, Cardinal Carberry was clear as to his opposition and very few other bishops or laity rallied to his support with the exception of organizations with very small memberships and little academic expertise in the liturgy.

    My memory is of few opponents to the quality of the translations rather to using English at all.

  16. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    Bp Maruice Taylor refrained from mentioning PInochet. But Medina’s personality is a very relevant consideration in the present debacle. Also, the only known initial NZ and South African responses arre clearly predominantly negative — a stubborn fact. Fr Ruff thinks that the 1998 translations would have been received with joy.

  17. Mary Coogan Avatar
    Mary Coogan

    Several of the comments above suggest that the volume of reactions matters more than the content of the admittedly few reactions already received. It seems to me, however, that the quoted negative reactions to the missal focus on specific enough problems that some specific response is possible.

    First, the translation retains sexist phrasing at a point in time when schools have taught inclusive words as Standard English for more than a generation. Salvation is “to us men” if we can say in English with a straight face “and most ‘men’ are ‘women.’” Since 1973, the English-speaking world has discarded the notion that “man” can clearly mean “woman.” One might go further: is the Anglican translation of “homo factus est” as “became truly human” inaccurate or somehow less accurate than “became man”?

    Second, I take comments about returning to pre-Vatican II habits to refer to Vox Clara’s renewed emphasis on the mystery of divine Presence in the mass. The missal might strengthen the laity’s sense of fellowship in Catholic “uniqueness” with regard to mysteries of faith. But it also risks mystification: for example, is “consubstantial” truly necessary to communicate the sense of the Father and Son being One? This word choice seems an attempt to imprint a Thomistic frame of mind on the recitation.

    Finally, with its closely “literal” translation and the catechesis planned for its introduction, the missal text seems more concerned with formalism and doctrinal orthodoxy than with worship. As Ms Minehan asks, “Will these latest changes increase our devotion, enlarge our congregations, or inspire our youth?” I wonder whether such a heavily mediated liturgical form can even become prayer for the laity.

    Three fairly specific complaints, then: sexism distracts and annoys, formalism confuses or mystifies, and prayer seems neglected. Will catechesis deal with these?

    1. F C Bauerschmidt Avatar

      the translation retains sexist phrasing at a point in time when schools have taught inclusive words as Standard English for more than a generation.

      I am all in favor of “horizontal” inclusive language. But my experience of teaching undergraduates is at least half of them (both male and female) still use “man” as a generic term, at least in some contexts.

      1. Mary Coogan Avatar
        Mary Coogan

        “Man” is a generic term meaning “male human beings,” just as “woman”–the parallel term–is generic for “female human beings.” If your undergrads still use “man” as generic for both, I’d be curious to know which writer’s handbook your composition teachers use. I’m not aware of any handbook in current use that lacks a section on inclusive language or some consideration of “audience.”

      2. F C Bauerschmidt Avatar

        They use Diana Hacker’s A Writer’s Reference, which addresses sexist language on pp. 148-150.

        But you are presuming that they are writing according to a handbook, rather than writing the way that they learned to talk.

      3. Mary Coogan Avatar
        Mary Coogan

        Oh yes, Father, I know that they write the way they talk. That’s why they need English teachers! I know of no other modern language in which the gap between spoken and standard written texts is as wide as in English. But in the past three years of teaching composition and literature at a public university where the Catholic chaplaincy is the only visible one on campus, I’ve had only one student who thought it was OK to use “man” as generic for men and women. Students crave the approval of their teachers, so I wonder whether undergrads at a church-affiliated university might adopt a more conservative approach to language than students at other institutions.

        The important thing, however, is the harm that such speech habits might do them in their professional or personal relationships, or the harm that they might do others. If my daughter were still an adolescent, I would hesitate to take her to a church where she would hear speech that would add to an adolescent’s task of establishing self-esteem.

      4. F C Bauerschmidt Avatar

        Students crave the approval of their teachers, so I wonder whether undergrads at a church-affiliated university might adopt a more conservative approach to language than students at other institutions.

        Perhaps, but I don’t think there is a single practicing Catholic in our writing department (except for a stray adjunct here and there), so I suspect that is not the determinative factor in our case. My guess is that, for good or for ill, many of our students see a concern for inclusive language as simply one more thing that their teachers want them to be concerned about that they really don’t see the point of. In that way, it’s not unlike my attempts to teach the doctrine of the Trinity.

  18. Simon Ho Avatar
    Simon Ho

    Fr Ruff,

    Are the full letters available? Of the snippets posted here, only Patricia Minehan’s seem to have some merit to consider. Perhaps having the full text of the letter would help us to understand why she feels the new, corrected texts don’t matter eventually.

    Teresa’s point is interesting, and indicates where there might be a gap in catechesis and formation. The overuse of “we” in the expiring translations would naturally have given rise to the mistaken notion that if “we” isn’t used, then somehow the community isn’t included. It’s like the change from “for all” to “for many”; careful explanations should be given to weed out the misconceptions that could have arisen from the past 40 years of translation choices.

    The use of “men” in the Creed is a carry-over from the existing text, and is an issue that has been much debated and a decision was made to retain the use of the generic ‘man’ in specific liturgical texts. June’s points are really about quite a separate issue that runs far deeper than any translation problem – and I would add that the idea that “people of God” somehow deemphasised a hierarchial order in the Church continues to baffle me.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Please note, Rita Ferrone is editor of the blog.

      My understanding is that credible media excerpt from longer materials, and readers are spared long stories and given accurate summaries by media they trust. I believe that PT’s excerpting is done responsibly – note, e.g. the generous quoting of the alternate voice supporting the new translation in this story.

      1. Simon Ho Avatar
        Simon Ho

        Err, I never said I trusted or mistrusted the excerpt. I was just looking for details to fill out the gaps. It would be helpful always to provide a link to the full text so that interested readers could get a complete flavour, wouldn’t it? Isn’t that what the clamouring against the the last round of revisions partly about – the full picture of what’s going on in people’s minds? It might throw some light on how to move the issue forward and prevent similar problems in other places.

  19. John Molnar Avatar
    John Molnar

    I read the new Mass texts and do not find them as poor as many on this blog claim them to be. Quite the opposite. The new translation is more accurate than the old ICEL version. One can argue minor points ad nauseam! There is no such thing as perfect translation. Any bi-lingual person will attest to that.

    The present NO has turned people off, not just because of its namby-pamby language but more because bishops will tolerate any kind of abuse committed by clergy and laity. The current music programs, with some isolated exceptions, could not be better designed to make people to stay home in droves. Many of the young drop out right after confirmation ceremonies. Has any one ever hear people say: I would leave the Catholic Church but for the NO Mass. No wonder, it was hastily put together by a committee. (A camel is a horse….)

    The new translation will not soon fix nearly 50 years of faith devolution among Catholics. The Church will become gradually smaller. An other 50 years from now the faithful will be fewer but more committed because they will have to live under persecution by a secular, politically correct culture.

    Even without V-2 the 20th century would have been difficult for Catholics to successfully navigate. The demolition of Catholic rituals assured that the secular assault on religion would be faced with a weakened and confused faith community. The confusion is still with us. The weakness will persist until Catholic identity is restored to its pre-V2 level. The new Mass if properly presented and with further reforms of the initial reform -ad orietem worship, altar rails, reintroduced sans cheesy hymnals- could help to get there.

    On the other hand, the new translation may not be the answer either. We can always go back to Latin.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      You project your personal attitudes on to whole populaces without giving any supporting data, but I’ll let that pass for now.

      It’s a rather irresponsible cop-out to say that these texts are “good enough” because no translation is perfect – especially when the 1997 translation shows what we could have had. And especially when the 2008 ICEL translation was more accurate and more beautiful than what we’re getting. Why do you go to such lengths to defend such mediocrity?

      If anyone thinks the coming texts are “good enough,” I simply ask them what the “them” refers to in the first-ever Vox Clara postcommunion we’ll all hear on I Advent 2011. Prayers that don’t make sense are not accurate, in my view.

      May these mysteries, O Lord,
      in which we have participated, profit us, we pray,
      for even now, as we walk amid passing things,
      you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
      and hold fast to what endures.


      1. G. Michael McGuire Avatar
        G. Michael McGuire

        Would that those entrusted by the Holy Father with oversight of the final revisions had listened to you, Fr. Ruff or to Canon Griffiths.

        Compare 2008
        May the mysteries we have celebrated profit us,
        we pray, O Lord,
        for even now, as we journey through this passing world,
        you teach us by them to love the things of heaven
        and hold fast to what will endure.

        or even 1997-98:
        Lord our God,
        grant that in our journey through this passing world
        we may learn from these mysteries
        to cherish even now the things of heaven
        and to cling to the treasures that never pass away.

        Some day the tale of score-settling and careerism behind the Vox Clara maneuverings will be told. Maybe even some day soon.

  20. George Andrews Avatar
    George Andrews

    Father E—-And how are we going to adjudicate between my perception that he was in small and cranky minority of rather snobby Englishmen and George Andrews’ assertion that he was one of tens of millions?

    Father E, et. al.

    Not everyone knows the word ‘ambience’, but everyone knows what it is. Guinness put his finger on it. The 1973 translation was only part of it. People knew something was different when churches were now constructed without belltowers or high ceilings, when electronic candles replaced wax ones, when priests started saying things like ‘the Resurrection didn’t occur in space and time’.

    People for which ‘That that is, is.’ began to lose their Faith. Many went off to fundamentalist sects who didn’t have to quailfy the parts of the Creed which they thought were not in every sense true.

    There are faithful Catholics who are disappointed with the new translation, but there are also those unhappy Catholics who want to redefine Catholicism and ‘is’. They are supremely unhappy with the new translation and any alteration of the Church’s disastrous course, a course which has alienated tens of millions of the Faithful.

  21. Tom Poelker Avatar

    JM [#56] “The new translation is more accurate than the old ICEL version.” MORE LITERAL is not more accurate. Bible scholars have been discussing this for a century or more. Inter-linear or literal translations are very useful for study among those who do not know the original language, but they are worse for public proclamation and understanding of the original by those hearing them.

    “The present NO has turned people off,” BUT Latin turns off many more people.

    “the NO Mass. No wonder, it was hastily put together by a committee.” IS VOX CLARA any less a committee or acting less hastily? What was so wrong with the Paul VI Latin of the Roman Canon?

    The ICEL translation, which is one issue here, was not done quickly and had a much wider input than the smalle,r and less expert in English, Vox Clara committee.

    “The new translation will not soon fix nearly 50 years of faith devolution . . . The weakness will persist until Catholic identity is restored to its pre-V2 level.” IF THIS IS your real issue, please drop out of the discussion of the value of different translations. These points seem to say that you want exactly what there was before Vatican II. In other words, you are rejecting the wisdom and teaching of the bishops from around the world, who decided that vernacular language and inculturation were so important that they made them the first issues they addressed.

    You will not find today even a large minority of diocesan bishops to suggest that their people would benefit from returning entirely to Latin liturgy, especially not if that includes the Liturgy of the Word.

    I do not think anybody stays in the RCC for love of the particular version of the Mass we now have in English, but I think unprecedented numbers would leave and prefer very similar Eucharist services at other denominations if Latin was again required for all Masses in the US.

  22. Tom Poelker Avatar

    Further re JM [#56] “The current music programs, with some isolated exceptions, could not be better designed to make people to stay home in droves.” POSSIBLY true, but irrelevant to the translation issue.

    I would explain it differently, but there are huge problems with the publisher-pushed Catholic music in the USA. It is not the content of the 1950s hymn repertoire to which we need to return but its limited size and organic rate of change. However, I know of no reports of anyone who left the RCC because of the music “program”.

    I think the US bishops made a huge mistake in not accepting an existing psalter in the 1960s. What was supposed to be a great revival in psalmody along with the improved lectionary, ended up being a capitalist market for new music only, that being the best source of profits.

    The result was predictable: ten percent trash, eighty percent undistinguished, and ten percent of high quality. Although I know of people who changed parishes because of music, many of them had issues of style or accompaniment rather than quality. I have heard more poor “guitar Masses” than poor “organ Masses,” but probably an equally high percentage of both.

    “ bishops will tolerate any kind of abuse committed by clergy and laity” POSSIBLY true, but irrelevant to the issue of quality translation.

    We are in disagreement regarding the advisability of the VC translation, but please know that for almost two decades I have been pointing out that the major faults in US RCC liturgy come from the bishops not educating their clergy and from the clergy feeling free to ignore or cherry pick the GIRM.

    The present MR and its original GIRM in the US are in a similar state to what Chesterton said of Christianity, a good idea which has not yet been tried.

  23. Gerard Flynn Avatar
    Gerard Flynn

    The practice of importing the syntactical structure of one language into another reminds me of Synge’s ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ where the characters speak English with the rhythm, cadences, music (and at times, pronunciation) of Irish. The result is a delightful and sad evocation of a people in the process of leaving one language behind them and taking up another. It is as unthinkable and incongruous to expect people to use the new translation of the missal as it would be to expect them to use the language of Synge in their common prayer.

    1. CPK Smithies Avatar

      Unthinkable? Why, there are some who use the archaic vocabulary and elitist grammar of Cranmer. Fortunately, they are probably only snobby Englishmen, sorry, Englishpersons.

    2. Francisco Montes Avatar
      Francisco Montes

      Where you a teacher?

  24. Gerard Flynn Avatar
    Gerard Flynn

    One is not comparing like with like. Sixteenth century English has developed organically into the English language of today. The syntactical arrangement is basically the same. Irish and English, on the other hand, are not cognate languages. Superimposing the structure of one on to the other gives us some of the quaint forms of English as it is sometimes heard in Ireland. To make this the language of the Mass would give us somethin like:
    Priest: Lift up your hearts!
    People: We’re after doing it.
    This is the kind of hybrid the Pell missal is promoting.

    1. Alan Yost, SJ Avatar
      Alan Yost, SJ

      Excellent points, GF. I don’t know Irish, but I know Spanish pretty well. One of my favorite examples of the challenge of translation between non-cognate languages is a popular Latin American hymn that starts out: “La misa es una fiesta muy alegre.” What I’m assuming most Hispanics picture as they sing it is something along the line of “The mass is a very joyful feast.” However, the following translation is grammatically and syntactically just as valid: “The mass is a very happy party.” Not sure what the Irish would think, but I know which version I would choose.

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