John Allen: the liturgy wars have gone quiet, but have not gone away.

I hope I’m not just stirring the pot and providing an occasion for combatants on both sides to take swipes at each other, but here is John Allen’s take on the current mood with regard to the Missal translation.

I believe that all of the people he quotes are being honest in their assessment, which just makes me shake my head at how differently they perceive things.

My own take, based largely on my own parish, is that if you asked people they would say they liked the old translation better, but that now that they are used to it the new translation is only a minor irritant. Of course, “only a minor irritant” is hardly my ideal for liturgical prayer.




90 responses to “John Allen: the liturgy wars have gone quiet, but have not gone away.”

  1. Jan Larson Avatar

    The new translation remains a disaster and a symbol of egregious Vatican power-grabbing, but many priests I know have made pastoral adaptations, often using bits and pieces of the much better 1998 translation, the only one fully approved by the English speaking bishops. The “irritant” persists, like a bad knee.

  2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    It all supports the notion that Vatican II was a start, not the end to reform and renewal. There is still much work to be done.

    It is a curious notion that Latin print on a page actually prays to God. Catholics pray at liturgy, sometimes despite the words given to us. That MR3 has settled in as part of the background noise probably speaks to the poverty of the actual words of the Roman Missal itself. The words of the Lectionary and of the song texts have always drawn our attention, and probably will continue to do so. Maybe that is as it should be.

  3. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    QUIET? Agree with Todd’s insights completely. Really, is the compromise the lowest common denominator? Do we settle for poor translations because we are tired? don’t care? too hard to change?

    And Jan speaks to a different but higher issue – the process violated VII norms; it violated the sense of the people of God? Is there an ethical evaluation of this process?

    Moroney says it all – the highest goal is that the english match the latin. Most experts would have a field day with the ***** of this statement and in fact historical records of this process have shown how it took the english to show the problems with the latin.

    Hilgartner – not sure that there was a substantial education period for most parishes? In fact, my experience was that the focus was on justifying word and phrase changes that may or may not have even been theologically valid? Face it – some clergy didn’t understand the changes to the MR3?

    Beck – worthwhile insights

    Finally, what is missing from this article is the impact on the rest of the world (non english speaking but using the english translation as their foundation). The MR3 fails miserably. And what about those national episcopal conferences especially in Europe who delayed or rejected this MR3 experiment?

    Are the liturgy wars only about MR3? Get why Allen focuses on this aspect but it fails to cover the whole liturgy story.

    1. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
      Elisabeth Ahn

      My own take, based largely on my own parish, is that if you asked people they would say they liked the old translation better, but that now that they are used to it the new translation is only a minor irritant.

      I would agree with this except for the bolded part. I now understand better how lacking (for lack of a better word) the old translation was, that they needed to be re-done/revised/refined/etc.

      It’s just unfortunate that the new translation is what it is: better than the old one but so much worse than what it could and should be, IMO.

      eta: But, I’m used to it now and it really is only a minor irritant.

      @ Bill deHaas #3:

      Get why Allen focuses on this aspect…


  4. Padraig McCarthy Avatar
    Padraig McCarthy

    “have gone quite” – shouldn’t that be “quiet”?

  5. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    Once again this morning I found myself awarding the translators a D minus for the presidential prayers. They sound like English and they use a narrow range of English words, but they sure as heck aren’t English.
    Can’t those who speak the language of Shakespeare treat it with a little more respect?

    1. Shaughn Casey Avatar
      Shaughn Casey

      @Alan Johnson:

      If you want the language of Shakespeare, there’s always Divine Worship. The Collect for Trinity Sunday today read, “Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity: we beseech thee; that this holy faith may evermore be our defense against all our adversities; who livest and reignest, ever one God, world without end. Amen.”

      I’m admittedly biased, but I find that translation mixes accessibility and heiratic language remarkably well. The Creed even reads “being of one substance with the Father,” which is clearer than either translation of the Novus Ordo and not especially clunky.

      1. Alan Johnson Avatar
        Alan Johnson

        @Shaughn Casey:
        Sadly not available to UK Catholics.
        I have no problem at all with beautiful language, I would love to have it in our new translations. Sadly much of what we have is ugly, clunky and garbled – hardly English at all. Why such dreadful stuff is handed down as being even remotely worthy of worship is beyond my ken. I acknowledge that it is driven by an almost fetishist devotion to Latin syntax as though they were magic incantations and not prayers, but even so ……

  6. Philip Sandstrom Avatar

    I think the most significant ‘comment’ on the liturgy wars is that they are mostly in English speaking countries and the imposition of ‘that translation’ — the other European origin languages have generally told the “Roman Authorities” repeatedly – ‘thank you, but we will do it our way’ — and not only exclusively concerning translations. It is unfortunately a notable application of the Roman dictum: “we make the laws and the English-speakers keep them”. Probably with the same attitude of the other European hierarchies if it were not for the cost factor of getting new books published etc. by now there would already be some variant of the 1998 ISCL version readily available for use. One can always live in hope of ‘better times’.

  7. Sean Keeler Avatar
    Sean Keeler

    I suspect that the battles may indeed go on, but only among the 0.001%. My interaction with the PiPs on the issue has primarily given responses the equivalent of Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara. Unless, of course, somebody decides to throw out the whole bit and redo the prayers once again in which case many of those who’ve gone through the change will simply walk away. Change was good once, maybe twice in a lifetime, the third time is too much.

    A couple of years ago, just for fun, I casually asked a number of regular attendees at Mass over several months what they thought of today’s Collect. Not a single person even knew what the Collect was. My conclusion is that most people vaguely hear prayers as their sit/stand/kneel cues. Period. Admittedly, my favorite response was the husband and wife who said they loved it. “We haven’t sung that one before, have we?” The husband then grinned and said, “But don’t they call it the Presentation of the Gifts now?”

    During the pre-implementation days, there was absolutely no consultation with the parishes other than with, perhaps, the clergy who got their marching orders. Our Liturgy/Music director at the largest parish in the diocese got her orders from the pastor to select which Mass settings to use and that was that. It was a done deal from the outset, whether we liked it or not.

    Should this article be correct, that the fires of liturgical rebellion still smolder, I have grim hope for the long-time future of Church unity. Progress is great when there is an announced and attainable goal. Even better when it is reached. As one of the kids in the movie Stand By Me commented, “Wagon Train’s a really cool show, but have you ever noticed they don’t really get anywhere? They just keep on wagon-training.”

    1. Scott Pluff Avatar
      Scott Pluff

      @Sean Keeler:
      +1. I believe that the “typical Catholic” did not listen to the presidential prayers before the new missal, and they continue to not listen today. Maybe Father has more trouble pronouncing whatever it is he’s saying, but it still comes across as so much “blah, blah, blah” while people are waiting for the next part that interests them.

      I once had a lifelong parishioner, very active, white collar professional, ask me if we could ever get rid of everything other than the Gospel, the homily, the music, and Communion. He seemed to think that all the rest could go and no one would miss it.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Scott Pluff:
        “I once had a lifelong parishioner, very active, white collar professional ask me if we could ever get rid of everything other than the Gospel, the preaching, the music, and Communion. He seemed to think that all the rest could go and no one would miss it.”

        Ah, good ol’ American pragmatism and efficiency. Slim down, tastes great, less filling.

        And, in truth, I do admit to having the same thought this past weekend about my pastor’s chronic, um, invitation that people greet one another during the opening rites. I thought: this is ostensibly that we know with whom we are worshiping, but it in no serious way accomplishes that in that context – rather, it’s much more of a gesture to make us feel as if we were welcoming rather than actually *being* welcoming. (And here’s the counterintuitive thing: people can actually *be* welcoming to people who are otherwise strangers.) I am generally not in favor of things that effectively enhance a community’s self-regard, because it’s that kind of thing that can corrode genuine welcome.

  8. Peter Kwasniewski Avatar
    Peter Kwasniewski

    The comments on this blog are truly amazing.

    At Wyoming Catholic College and the parish nearby it, there was a collective sigh of relief when the new translation came in. It was the first time most of us realized how much of the revised missal was simply omitted or distorted in the stupid old translation. Conversely, the new elevation and formality of language made it easier for some of a more traditional(ist) mentality to attend the Ordinary Form. One can quibble about this or that peculiar translation, but overall it represents an improvement of cosmic proportions.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Peter Kwasniewski:
      Possibly more annoying than amazing. But they shouldn’t surprise you.

      Most all of us here acknowledge that the 1970/75 translation was a preliminary transition piece. Most all of us old enough to go back to the early 80’s, were eagerly anticipating the improved effort, and looking forward to work similar to that which went into the Pastocal Care rites, RCIA, and funerals. MR3 in English is truly a looking-glass piece of work: not even following its own rules.

    2. Bill deHaas Avatar
      Bill deHaas

      @Peter Kwasniewski:
      Well, when you choose to live in a *bubble* with like minded people, what do you expect?
      As Fr. Ruff said to you in another post – “that will not fly*. “New elevation and formality” – sorry, this is an arbitrary judgment and evaluation based upon the illusion that one period of church history is the be all of our tradition. (and, per Longnecker, it sounds like that evil *progressivism* – you know, emphasis on NEW)
      Now, for actual over-statement, cosmic hyperbole to the nth degree, and Trentan embellishment; you say: “….represents an improvement of cosmic proportions.” Only in your buble and alternative universe.

      1. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
        Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

        @Bill deHaas:
        We all live in bubbles of one sort or another, even if yours is of a different hue. Collegeville isn’t a bubble? Notre Dame certainly is. But they aren’t all the same. I like to compare bubbles.

      2. Bill deHaas Avatar
        Bill deHaas

        @Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC:
        Sorry, your comment & comparison limps badly. Collegeville, Notre Dame are not bubbles in the same way that Wyoming Catholic College is. You are comparing apples to oranges.
        (do you know anything about WCC – barely been around for ten years; not currently accredited, it preaches – Professors at WCC are firmly resolved never to teach anything contrary to Catholic faith and morals as taught by the Church’s Magisterium. Again, this is to meet the reasonable and exacting standards of Ex corde Ecclesiae. Its student body and total faculty wouldn’t equal a department at Notre Dame…that alone calls into question diversity, exposure to other viewpoints, etc.)
        Allow me to add – know a number of young priests – none of them like the new translation and echo the comments above about its lack of proclaimability; that it is clunky; and at times just plain wrong.

      3. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
        Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

        @Bill deHaas:
        Yes, I know what WCC is. It seems that the young priests you know and the ones I know are pretty different. I think that speaks to the fact that we each may be, in some degree, in self-selecting communities ourselves. So, yeah, bubbles.

  9. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    If thats elevated language, then I’m a Dutchman. It more resembles one of Professor Higgins failed attempts at getting a Cockney flower girl to speak like a duchess.

  10. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
    Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

    I was ordained to the priesthood in 2013. I didn’t have to memorize the presidential prayers of the previous translation because the texts for MR3 were, thankfully, already out. So I have ONLY presided with the present translation, though I had been Catholic for the previous three decades, too.

    The VAST majority of younger priests I know (American Midwest and South) are grateful for the new translation and consider it a marked improvement over the previous edition. Not that it doesn’t have its substantial flaws, but an overall improvement. I find that priests and liturgists have strong feelings about it, but most people have settled into it and are fine with it. I agree that changing it again any time very soon would be a mistake, even if another translation was significantly better.

    I find the present translation to have substantially better, richer imagery, but it is more difficult to verbalize. We sort of went from sentence-fragments to run-on-Latinate-thoughts (they aren’t always complete English sentences). Neither is optimal, but I find the latter provides more (and better quality) raw material. Sadly, I find the new translations of the prayers over the people and solemn blessings to be largely unusable–they are just too obscure.

  11. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
    Jordan Zarembo

    There is one inconsistency in the “new” edition which always in my mind exemplifies the hazards of the new translation ideology.

    quaesumus does not mean “we pray”. “We beg” is probably the simplest translation. Thomas Cranmer was close with “we beseech thee”. However, Cranmer lived in a peri-feudal society merging towards early modernity. Generally, people in today’s societies (while risking an amerocentric or eurocentric viewpoint) do not live in slave-freed-client or feudal hierarchical societies. It’s likely that most people do not desire even the ghosts of these social/societal structures echoed in vernacular prayer. Yet, we are left with the remnants of these societies through the linguistics of the Missale Romanum.

    quaesumus is a verbal marker of social/societal stratification which is difficult to articulate to today’s worshipers. Sermons on the subject would take time away from homiletics and probably merely complicate an already extremely complicated anthropological/linguistic/philological/theological question with palpable emotional impact for people today.

    I would hope that quaesumus, along with the “O” in front of the vocative form (not very important to convey from Latin to English, in effect a confusion with Greek ὡ article) could be dropped by celebrants until the time the smothering literalness of the new translation is tamed.

    1. Todd Orbitz Avatar
      Todd Orbitz

      @Jordan Zarembo:
      Funny…. your point about quaesumus is precisely one of the central points that Fr. Jerry Pokorski, who founded CREDO (predating Adoremus), used to make back in the early 90’s….. though he was advocating “beseech” as the solution.

    2. Alan Griffiths Avatar
      Alan Griffiths

      @Jordan Zarembo:

      Am I wrong in finding that ‘quaesumus’ in the Latin sources is not used with an object, but intransitively ? In that case, Cranmer’s interpretation, strictly speaking, is incorrect. It also seems to be relatively rare in English to use ‘I ask’ or similar verbs intransitively.

      One ICEL official in my hearing years ago used the example of the popular song ‘Bless this house O Lord we pray’ to justify its use in the current Missal translation then being prepared. That struck me as rather exhaustive fishing.

      My sense is that, actually, Cranmer’s version works very well, but it is presumably not consistent with the policy of Liturgiam Authenticam.

      Having been less than overwhelmed with the paschal joys of the Missal this year, I remain,

      Yours faithfully

      (!) AG.

      1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        @Alan Griffiths:

        Alan: “Am I wrong in finding that ‘quaesumus’ in the Latin sources is not used with an object, but intransitively ?

        You’re not wrong at all. I agree that quaesumus is used intransitively. Maybe quaesumus could be considered intransitive with a dative object. “thee” is the dative for the nominative “thou”. Most (all?) of the modern Englishes have completely shed the archaic familiar second person, and so have also loss the dative sense of the pronoun. This is why I, you, and undoubtedly others struggle with the translation of quaesumus.

        In that case, Cranmer’s interpretation, strictly speaking, is incorrect. It also seems to be relatively rare in English to use ‘I ask’ or similar verbs intransitively.

        Cranmer’s “we beseech thee” is deceptive. “thee” appears accusative, but is likely dative in sense (no difference in grammatical form between dative and accusative here). Perhaps Cranmer implied “we beseech [to] thee”.

        The example from the ICEL official is comical. This modern English speaker trying to, as you put it, use an intransitive verb alone. This will fail as it sounds absurd.

        My sense is that, actually, Cranmer’s version works very well, but it is presumably not consistent with the policy of Liturgiam Authenticam.

        Well certainly tell the Ordinariate this 😉 I agree with you than Cranmer’s grammar works well, even if the translation is impossibly archaic. The travails of quaesumus is an ideal reason why Liturgiam authenticam must be revised for flexibility. Perhaps LA should be divided into a number of directives attuned to different Englishes, with a view towards multiple English translations. Maybe the document should be scrapped. It’s clear that no one, left, right, or center ideologically, is served well by LA. “We pray” is an excellent fail.

  12. Charles Culbreth Avatar

    My spirit bathed well within the preface today, and I was thankful. The only thing that crossed my mind was, “If only our celebrant was postured ad Deum with the faithful.”
    Bill, you got some serious hubris to detractively label WCC as a self-insulated bubble. That’s all.

  13. Rev Ronald G Schmit Avatar
    Rev Ronald G Schmit

    My observation is that many older Vatcan II priests who were used to ad libbing do that with the new translation. Some are using the 1998 translation obtained online. Many of the younger clergy follow what is written. For an overwhelming number of these new priests English is not their first language. The new translation may only be adding to the problem that the faithful continually raise that they do not understand these priests. It may not be only the accents but the texts that are the problem. For native English speakers the texts are often tortuous I can’t imagine what it’s like if English isn’t your first language. In any event the translation that was meant to unify has had in many ways the opposite effect.

  14. Paul Robertson Avatar

    I have despised the new words ever since I first saw them. Nobody has asked my opinion of them in the five years since I sat in my parish priest’s study and we shook our heads with sorrow over the language that had been dumped upon us from Rome. Whether that means that I have settled into it or accepted it is, apparently, a matter for others to interpret without my input.

    My experience on the ground: I still need the prompt cards for the Gloria and the Creed, I cannot bring myself to use “consubstantial”. It is a word that is utterly meaningless to me and to everyone I have spoken to about it. It would convey exactly the same meaning to say “Begotten, not made, plamflamgoogly with the Father”. Of course, you could tell me to look up “consubstantial” in a dictionary but, simply put, people do not do that, and neither should they have to.

    I concede that the new translation is “closer” to the Latin. That was, explicitly, the goal of the new words. The fact that is is further from English (I would contend that much of it is not actually English) only serves to distance English-speaking people from God. Implicitly, the message is that our own words are not elevated enough for God. Our own prayers will fall to the ground and be trampled with the ashes because we dare to call God “Abba” and not “Your divine majesty”.

    In the pews, there is still, five years on, a 50/50 split between “for our good and the good of all his Holy Church” and “for our good and the good of all his Church”. Most seem to be on board with “under my roof”, although I have only ever said it twice.

    We have been given the choice: “say the new words or separate yourself from the Eucharist”. Lack of vocal dissent is not the same as assent. My impression is that people come to in much the same way as they used to. You can spot the people following along in their missals because they are the ones whose brows are crumpled by the dreck they find there.

    1. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
      Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

      @Paul Robertson:
      In places that have a significant “split” in the congregational responses (‘competing’ responses), it’s usually because one or more of the presiders hasn’t been modeling them. Surprise, surprise when you garble or make up the “cue” that the community doesn’t know how to respond.

      I have seen many different versions of this:
      Priest:”May the (insert what I think is welcoming) be with (you and your next-door neighbors)!!”
      People: “And, also, um, huh?”

      Priest: “Behold, this is the Christ-Lamb-Victim who was slain just for you! Rejoice and come to the feast!”
      People: “Um, what do you expect us to do with that?”

      The transition is hard enough. Don’t make stuff up.

      1. Paul Robertson Avatar

        @Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC: #24
        You do not seem to be arguing against my point, but simply constructing a straw man. In none of the churches I have attended in recent decades has the priest taken such liberties with the Mass, either before or since the introduction of the new words. That is not an explanation for the divergence in responses.

        My personal theory is that, like Jesus in today’s daily reading “Why do you call me ‘Good’? Only God is good.” Many of us pew-sitters take issue with the church calling itself holy and balk at what might be seen as taking the high seats at the table. We are clearly warned about what happens to those who take the high seats.

        Given that you are not arguing against any of my points, do I conclude that you accept them all?

      2. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
        Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

        @Paul Robertson:
        I wish it WERE a strawman! I have seen these things myself, and more than once from more than one presider, of both religious and diocesan affiliations.

        The most common competing responses I have encountered center around people disliking saying “man,” “men,” “His,” etc. So it’s a “protest” for inclusive language.

        I recall people ALWAYS using aids for the Creed. So there’s been no change there. I think people are using aids for the Gloria less and less. If it’s sung and they are used to the setting–no cards. If it’s recited–cards. Again, I think that was mostly that way before MR3.

        Re: “consubstantial” That is a philosophical and theological concept over which there were mobs, riots, and councils. If you think that “one in being with” meant that people understood those concepts, you’re fooling yourself. Either way it is rendered it would require significant catechesis for anyone to know what that is really about. So to the extent that a big scary word might encourage people to look it up instead of assuming they know what it means, that might not be such a bad thing.

        @ Todd Flowerday:
        Which prayers are the “prayers at the chair,” exactly? The collect and post-communion prayers? Were those *ever* memorized?

      3. Bill deHaas Avatar
        Bill deHaas

        @Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC:
        As you stated often – your own bubble again.

        *One in being with* – would suggest that this is easier to understand than *consubstantial*. BTW – consubstantial is only one definition and explanation that is time limited. It comes with a certain amount of baggage. Do you really think folks look it up?

        Creed and Gloria – guess experience varies. Don’t ever remember folks needing cards to do these and the Gloria was always sung at our churches or not done.

        Yes, some presbyters memorized the prayers and can recall presbytrs who actually referred, quoted, and incorporated these prayers into their homilies. The current prayers, at times, are hard to even proclaim since they can be too long, filled with sub-phrases, etc. Can’t remember the last time I heard any presbyters refer to current prayers.

        Fact – most churches I have participated in had long moved past any use of *cards* during the eucharist. Best practice was the use of liturgy outlines for every week-end. One of the unfortunate results of the *forced* and *arbitrary* MR3 (to use Rita’s description) was that the people of God had to go back to using cards; reading rather than listening; tracking unfamiliar changes rather than fully participating. It hindered celebration and turned us back to focusing on words rather than communal actions. It made our experience verbally focused; idea driven, etc. rather than a full experience of all of our senses.

      4. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        @Bill deHaas:
        Bill, I think all of us are in some sort of bubble, and that includes you. Some of our bubbles are bigger or smaller, but we all come from our perspective. It’s important to respect others’ perspectives, including Fr. Waugh’s. One can still disagree, but in a spirit of dialogue and not just fighting back.

  15. Chris McDonnell Avatar
    Chris McDonnell

    It is about what was done and the way it was done.
    When the English-speaking world agreed through episcopal conferences to accept the late 90s, translation after many years of patient work, there was the implicit view that the earlier translation was and only ever had been an interim exercise.
    But then the tanks appeared on the lawns and all was swept aside and the bishops, to their discredit, happily flip-flopped to Rome’s new tune. In other non-English speaking countries, the door was firmly closed with a polite no-thank you to Vatican interference.
    There are many, many points where this translation fails on the level of comfort to the ear, offering a convoluted language where simplicity and understanding is called for. Further the vocal presentation by the celebrant at times demands sympathy from the congregation.
    That is what the priest has been told to read say and attempt to pray. A pity but there it is.
    The comments above show only a reflection of a growing tiredness with continuing the discussion, worn out by the refusal of the hierarchy to listen, as well as a wish by some, to move into an esoteric holy language that in the end helps no-one.
    Rome depended on the boredom factor and the farther on we are from the first Sunday of Advent 2011, the more they hope those whose voices were raised then will slip into quietude.
    Sorry, they won’t.

  16. Lee Bacchi Avatar
    Lee Bacchi

    Well, the Collect for Trinity Sunday contains some questionable theology, but my guess is most presiders still said the words.

  17. Fr Richard Duncan CO Avatar
    Fr Richard Duncan CO

    The best English language Missal in terms of language I have seen is “Divine Worship”, the Ordinariate Missal. It manages to remain faithful to the Latin whilst reading and sounding like good English. The Triduum liturgies in particular are vastly superior than the 2011 version. Its just a suggestion, but I wonder if a wider permission to use the Ordinariate translations, as opposed to the rite itself, might be a solution.

    I have to confess to being increasingly irritated by the translations of the collects, prayers over the offerings and post-communions of the 2011 Missal. In particular, I find the “God who have” rendering of “Deus qui” very difficult to take.

    1. Steve Woodland Avatar
      Steve Woodland

      @Fr Richard Duncan CO:
      I agree. I think the “God who have” construction was to avoid the “Yoo-hoo” mishap of the interim Missal from the mid-sixties.

      1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
        Karl Liam Saur

        @Steve Woodland:
        That form of vocative construction is perhaps the most archaic and unjustifiable rendering tic of MR3 – and they very notably (and wisely) backed out of rendering the “qui tollis” in the Agnus Dei as “who take away”….

      2. Shaughn Casey Avatar
        Shaughn Casey

        @Karl Liam Saur:

        This is, again, where Divine Worship comes in handy. “O Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world. . .” Preferably with the Merbecke setting. Easy! 🙂

  18. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Jack Feehily

    Can we get honest here? The translation was imposed on compliant English speaking hierarchs who had every reason to know that the language it employed does not resonate with even well educated speakers of English. They complied because of two factors: The liturgists among them grew weary after a battle for a truly improved translation which had begun in the 80’s; and the increased number of safe bishops appointed by JPII and Benedict. So what was behind the thinking of those who did the imposing? I believe it represented a hugely distorted understanding of lex orandae, lex credendae. They opted for the Tridentine inspired notion that true worship consists of simply speaking explicit words directly to God. What the worshippers hear is apparently of no real consequence. The authorities have decreed the words and the clergy must dutifully and scrupulously say them. SC had the audacity to challenge this understanding as did those who implemented the reforms and there has been a persistent sliver of the church that has resisted. LA was their Magna Carta; and the 2011 translation it’s love child. In the meantime, some parishes are spared its chilling effect by priests who insist on praying in clear English that is in full accord with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith.

  19. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    Jack, I am broadly in agreement with you. But let’s not blame the Council of Trent for the idiocy of some of its followers. The actual council was, in John O’Malley’s words, “consistently circumspect on hot issues” – clerical celibacy, the veneration of images, lay reception of Communion in both kinds, and liturgy in the vernacular. There’s a myth that the bishops marched en masse into a chapel in Trent, roundly denounced Protestants and their modernist innovations (“Anathema! Anathema!”) and marched triumphantly home. Nothing could be further from fact.

    All that the Council decreed on liturgical language was that Latin was still permitted: “If anyone says that the Mass should be celebrated only in the vernacular (lingua tantum vulgari) let them be anathema. (2:736)” Nothing more.

  20. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
    Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

    more from SC:
    22. 3. Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

    1. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
      Elisabeth Ahn

      @Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC #30:

      To those who have no qualms about doing things their own way because they think theirs is the right way, it probably matters little what SC — or any other presumably important church documents for that matter — says.

      Personally, I find priests who make things up as they go along just as irritating as the non-Englishness of some parts of the current missal.

      1. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
        Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

        @Elisabeth Ahn:
        I really resonate with this. I think it is one thing–maybe even “right and just”–to discuss, dissect, critique, or even lament the new translation. But to actually disregard or rewrite the liturgy in practice according to one’s own initiative is something else entirely. Ok, I am writing too much. I am sorry for monopolizing the thread.

  21. Rita Ferrone Avatar
    Rita Ferrone

    I’d like to point out a few problems with the Allen article.

    First, the term “liturgy wars” was coined by Allen himself, and it was he who proclaimed that the “conservatives” “won” the liturgy wars when ICEL was reconstituted to answer to Rome rather than to the English speaking episcopal conferences, and Liturgiam authenticam was issued back in 2001.

    The term that Allen himself coined, “liturgy wars,” is misleading, in my view. The hostile takeover of ICEL was not a war, it was a power grab. It was abetted by English speaking bishops who were told repeatedly by people such as Cardinals George and Rigali, that this is what Rome wants and Rome will get it whether the bishops agree to it or not.

    Allen’s proclamation of “winners” at the time was at least premature and I would argue it was actually false. In my view, everybody lost. The bishops lost face and compromised on what should have been their genuine role in this. They lost confidence, because it pitted obedience against right judgement. Liberals lost confidence in the process, and no longer believe that liturgical questions are genuinely decided on a pastoral and scholarly footing. Conservatives lost because this drove a deeper wedge into the church which is/was mainstream, and which is now losing members faster than ever. A demoralized church institution is not a conservative victory. And, finally, the power question has moved into a new stage because — surprise! — the election of Pope Benedict turned out to be an interlude rather than “the shape of things to come.” Liturgiam authenticam is, I predict, going to have a short shelf life. Already it is being disregarded and calls for its replacement are rising.

    Second, Allen is confusing cause and effect. The late 2000s is not when the conflicts came to a head. It was in the late 1990s, with the reconstitution of ICEL and the penning of Liturgiam authenticam, which was issued in 2001 not the late 2000s. Does this matter? Well, yes. Because if the translation is a symptom, not a cause, we still need to get down to causes here to see why all is “not at rest.” A new language reform will not solve these problems. The bigger issue of inculturation and local oversight is being addressed (obliquely, true, but in various ways) by Pope Francis, and the sums come out differently. That’s the real point to watch, in my view, to see what is going on. In this sense, the Synod on the Family is more important to liturgy than a visit of Cdl Sarah to ICEL.

    1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Rita Ferrone:
      I appreciate this summary.

      I would add that there is no bigger loser than the Missal itself. Something like MR2 might have actually inspired a deeper engagement in the Mass through a serious language attuned to the listener. As it is, we have a contrast between a decent clarity in the Lectionary, plus the mixed bag of song texts versus a language that puts the clergy into a mostly different place from the people. If people tuned out on the presidential prayers 1970-2010, they certainly aren’t being engaged by them today. Advent IV opening collect is the only one Catholics can cite. I bet lyrics and Bible verses are the stuff of passive or active memorization.

      Here’s a key question: how many MR3 advocates have memorized any of the prayers at the chair?

    2. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
      Elisabeth Ahn

      @Rita Ferrone #33:

      Well said, Rita! You tell him!

      Especially this:

      “A new language reform will not solve these problems. The bigger issue of inculturation and local oversight is being addressed (obliquely, true, but in various ways) by Pope Francis, and the sums come out differently. That’s the real point to watch, in my view, to see what is going on.”

      I feel that everything that’s been said in this thread had already been said many times over and then some. Instead of regurgitating the same points and counterpoints over and over and over again, which gets no one anywhere, I really wish the discussions going forward would focus on those bigger, broader issues that Rita delineated above.

      Incidentally, I read that today Pope Francis met with CDW secretary Abp. Roche. What do you think they talked about? Probably not anything that has to do with some fake “liturgy wars.”

    3. Robert Addington Avatar
      Robert Addington

      @Rita Ferrone:

      The plain truth is that the Vatican has never understood English-speaking Catholics, perhaps because we are a minority in English-speaking countries (with the notable exception of Ireland). In fact, some people in Rome don’t even consider us ‘real’ Catholics at all.

      English words mean what English-speaking people understand them to mean, not what Italian or Spanish-speaking prelates in Rome say they mean. What would happen if English-speaking prelates tried to tell the Italians how to pray in their own language? A certain Italian gesture of contempt comes immediately to mind!

      Preparation and approval of liturgical translations should be left entirely to the conferences of bishops. By accepting a Missal that is Latin disguised as English, the English-speaking bishops have done us a great disservice.

  22. Chris McDonnell Avatar

    Rita #33
    ‘The term that Allen himself coined, “liturgy wars,” is misleading, in my view. The hostile takeover of ICEL was not a war, it was a power grab. It was abetted by English speaking bishops who were told repeatedly by people such as Cardinals George and Rigali, that this is what Rome wants and Rome will get it whether the bishops agree to it or not.’
    The comment made by Rita is precisely what I tried to infer with my phrase in #25 ‘tanks on the lawn’. Since the 2011 introduction I have yet to see in print a comment from a bishops’ conference that recognised the disquiet felt by many that Advent and in subsequent years.

  23. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    Regarding “quaesumus”:

    The “modern” word you may be looking for is “petition”. Modern folk do their begging/beseeching/imploring to those who have effective power over them via petitions – at least when they are (comparatively) polite and permitted to do so. It would definitely perk the ear to hear that in a liturgical context (where “petition” is normally only used as a noun for a General Intercession).

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Karl Liam Saur:

      I mostly agree with you, Karl. “petition” for quaesumus, perhaps “we petition you” (Cranmer’s pattern but with the undifferentiated modern second person pronominal declension, as modern English has no liturgical du) would be suitable. However, when quaesumus appears within the context of eucharistic prayer, "petition" does not resolve the eternal mysterious relationship between the participation of the assembly (as royal priesthood) with Christ the head in its multiple forms. In eucharistic prayer, we the laity are intrinsic participants who also petition. It is a strange, perhaps mysterious dynamic, but nevertheless present.

      In the collects, however, "petition" might be construed as a modest equality so far as the petitioners are almost on eye contact with God. In that way a calcified feudalism turns radically to an overreaching pseudo-equality. Our verbal recognition of humility before God in "petition" is rather reminiscent of a subordinate employee who petitions a middle manager for a raise and its accoutrements, Volvo wagon included ["estate" for you, Jonathan 🙂 ]

      Do not get me wrong, Karl. "Petition" is a good balance between overly servile language and the omission of a humility statement. The ubiquity of quaesumus in the Missale suggests that the translation of quaesumus in the collects should be sparing, with not all instances rendered in every collect interpretation.

  24. Peter Haydon Avatar
    Peter Haydon

    In comment 18 the translation of “quaesumus” is discussed. My observation is that the word “adopted” is now included in a number of prayers but was almost always omitted from the previous translation. See the preface for Pentecost for example. I wonder why.
    If the previous translators considered the concept unacceptable I wonder what message they sought to convey to adoptive parents and adopted children.
    For this change, leaving aside other matters, the new translation is a great improvement.

  25. Jim McKay Avatar
    Jim McKay

    On the side of Crux’s front page is another article about an African Cardinal opposing “demonic gender ideology”:

    Given that the Cardinal in question is head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, I doubt that the liturgy wars are over.

  26. John Kohanski Avatar
    John Kohanski

    Perhaps part of the issue is that we’re attuned to listening to things that are said to us from a fourth grade reading level. Well, I guess that it seems to work for a lot of assemblies, and their president, on the ambo, is winning points from from them. But that doesn’t seem like English to me either.

  27. Alexander Larkin Avatar
    Alexander Larkin

    Thank God that the whole world has been overcome by paschal joy and EVEN (?) the angelic choirs …

  28. Matt Foley Avatar
    Matt Foley

    We made a pastoral decision for the greater good of the people, we’re using the 1998 translation for the opening and closing prayers, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we use the current Roman Missal.

  29. Ed Nash Avatar
    Ed Nash

    Wow what a thread and an enjoyable read…

    The issue for me is that sometimes the priest will start reading the “Priest only” prayers and descends into a sentence structure that makes no colloquial sense and then has to start climbing back out again. Each time it is a major struggle I wonder “what the hell did we just pray for?”

    I say amen because I’m supposed to but wonder what did I just agree to support. If we change the words anytime soon it will be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Priests are changing the pro multis phrase every few weeks and the dismissal rite is a toss up where the players forgot what they called in the coin flip.

    Some word changes I welcomed; most I thought were pushed by an agenda.

  30. tom blackburn Avatar
    tom blackburn

    What Rita Ferrone said.

    When I realized the new presidential prayers weren’t registering, I started reading them before Mass along with the readings and psalms I was already reading. And I found myself “editing” the Collects instead of focusing on the subsequent readings. So I don’t try to read them anymore, and I still don’t “get” them through the ears. The fruits of someone’s labor.

    And I still say we will pay for changing “died” to “suffered death,” as when half-bright Catholics will say: “We used to say Jesus died, but then the pope said that that was wrong because Jesus was God and couldn’t die, so we say he just felt like he died. But not really.” The heretical fruits of someone’s labor.

    1. John Kohanski Avatar
      John Kohanski

      @tom blackburn:
      The modern version of the Creed in the Book of Common Prayer says: “suffered death and was buried” while the old version says: “he suffered and was buried.” If anything could be mis-understood by people, to me it seems that the older BCP version, would be.

      1. tom blackburn Avatar
        tom blackburn

        @John Kohanski:
        Yes, but the last thing we were saying before the change is “suffered, died and was buried.” When this first came up, I looked up the German, Spanish, French and, finally, Latin, and whaddya know? I couldn’t find any justification for “died” or ‘death” in any of them at that point. I presume other language groups know that people did not normally survive being crucified under Pontius Pilate.

      2. Louie Macari Avatar
        Louie Macari

        @tom blackburn:
        Out of interest the relevant Italian parts of the Creed used by the pope are

        generato, non creato, della stessa sostanza del padre
        begotten not made of the same substance as the father

        (The Scottish Episcopal Church uses – of one substance as the father)

        Fu crocifisso per noi sotto Ponzio Pilato, mori e fu sepolto
        was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried

  31. Bill Keane Avatar
    Bill Keane

    Reading this long-winded and winding discourse, I can only think of the equally relevant medieval debate on how many angels can fit on the point of a needle!
    Personally the whole problem seems to be an exercise/example of the clericalism which has wracked the church for the last fifty years. Vatican II recognized the “people of God” and then promptly consigned them to oblivion. How many of you are from parishes with real pastoral councils? Or dioceses with lay assemblies with real administrative power? So why should they care about the laity in the pews?

    Bill Keane
    wtkeane @

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      @Bill Keane:
      Unlike moderns, medieval scholars were smart enough to avoid debating how many angels were on the head of a pin – they knew it was part of a tautology (because angels are incorporeal, by definition there’s no issue about how many of them “fit” on a pinhead).

  32. Ginny Kiernan Dahlberg, Ph.D. Avatar
    Ginny Kiernan Dahlberg, Ph.D.

    Thanks be to God, THIS theologian is a member of the *Ecumenical* Catholic Communion, and thus not bound by pope or Roman bishops. OUR bishops, besides actually *hearing* what members say/think, seek change through consensus, aren’t scared to change Latin words that are anachronistic, irrelevant to the world in which WE actually live, and promoting a patriarchal, hierarchical structure. So, at the consecration we say (the correct word, theologically) “for all,” we respond “and also with you,” recognize the clergy as *presider* with ALL those present as celebrants…and we don’t have wars, over liturgy or theology! Such a shame Once upon a time John was a friend in and through church reform – and then he was suborned by the taste of power when assigned to the Vatican.

  33. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    Okay – but understand that my feeling was that his use of bubble was *dismissive* – a straw man. And I found some of his comments above to be as disrespectful as, I guess, you found mine to be. Let’s at least be fair and balanced.

  34. Fr Mark Leenane Avatar
    Fr Mark Leenane

    Dear Fritz, You are not “just stirring the Pot”. The issue of the new translation is not going to go away because both priests and laity are confronted with it every time we celebrate mass. I have been a priest for 18 years and pride myself on trying to do a “good job” aware that ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who empowers the work. “God Bless the work” as the Irish saying goes . Prior to the new translation I believed that preparing a good liturgy involved celebrating fully in word and symbol and music what was provided in the sacramentary. There is no need to add anything.
    I now feel that the words of the sacramentary detract from what I am trying to do. I feel like a surgeon sent to operate with blunt instruments or a pianist playing on an un-tuned piano. I think it is not credible, five years on for those who support the new translation to argue that contributors of the obvious liturgical knowledge of Jonathon Day, and Rita Ferrone to name but two are simply wrong. Translation is not a science but one has a sense that there are people who know what they are talking about. My experience of attempting to use the new translation accords with the opinion of it voiced by the commentators I have named above, and many other clergy and laity to whom I have spoken at all levels in the church. With regard to Bill Keane’s reference to this” long-winded and winding discourse” # 49. I agree Bill that it would be good not to have to continue to address this issue five years on from the introduction of MR3. It is clear however that this translation is simply not good enough, and has not been accepted by a substantial proportion of clergy and laity. One feels its inadequacy most keenly when confronted with congregations in school or at a funeral mass. My experience tells me that my flock deserve better.
    I find the commitment of this blog to examining critically and in a spirit of charity these issues to be a real support to my priesthood.

  35. Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC Avatar
    Fr. Jarrod Waugh, CSC

    Bill, you are the one who uses “bubble” pejoratively. (Re: #14) I was trying to suggest that we all have our own bubbles/lenses that can bias the way we approach these topics. The “Notre Dame Bubble” is often pointed out where I live. I think it is mostly a good thing for our self-awareness in respect to how we interact with and think about other communities.

    I mean to take your arguments seriously, but right out of the gates you accuse me of not understanding the topics at hand. I don’t take it personally; I enjoy few things more than a vigorous discussion with intelligent people–it’s the way I learn best. But it seems more than a little hypocritical to me for you to insult someone’s bubble and then to take offense when accused of being in one yourself. I think we *all* are, to some extent! This blog/community is pretty self-selecting, too! I think we are all here because we care about good liturgy more than most people do–not more than they should (?maybe?), but more than they actually do.

  36. Alan Johnson Avatar
    Alan Johnson

    Is anyone in a position to change things actually listening?

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      @Alan Johnson:
      Probably not.

    2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Alan Johnson:
      But some of the ones listening are annoyed the discussion is still continuing.

      1. Alan Johnson Avatar
        Alan Johnson
  37. Chip Stalter Avatar
    Chip Stalter

    I’ve no degree in divinity, theology, philosophy, or etymology, I’m merely a pew sitter and part time choir director.
    To me “sharing the same substance” (consubstantial) is a far easier concept to grasp than “one in being” The current day abstractness of “being” clouds the issue for me. is it “to be” or exist? is it a “being” like an alien?

    Are the Collects a bit convoluted at times, sure. Are hymns written to meter and rhyme convoluted at times, yep.

    There is a pragmatic aspect of the translation that as a choir director I pray never changes, and that is that the preface to the Sanctus ends the same way every week, so I never have to guess again if it is time to cue our accompanist.

    1. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
      Karl Liam Saur

      @Chip Stalter:
      Hence why I would have preferred “of one substance”. “One in being” was not incorrect, but I learned “being” was equivocal in whether it was a noun or gerund.

    2. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      @Chip Stalter:

      In England and Wales, we used “of one being with the Father”, unlike the remainder of the English-speaking world. There was no good reason to change that. Indeed, it would have been better to have had everyone else join E&W, rather than foisting the impossible “consubstantial” on a non-comprehending Church.

  38. Mary Dahl Avatar
    Mary Dahl

    Question…I have not noted any discussion above on the word “merit” being used in the new translation. In my mind, merit equals “earn”. I may be wrong in this but every time I hear the word “merit” I wonder if our theology of salvation being won once and for all by Christ’s dying and rising has been set back a few years with us now “meriting” salvation instead of it being “gifted” and granted thru Christ and thru our Baptism into his death and resurrection. Seems we’ve opened the can of worms once again on gaining indulgences being the way to heaven or at least a guarantee of everlasting life. I wonder if the number of plenary ones I “earned” as a child still hold value…I actually had a list of them going – type A here…

  39. Rev. Scott McCarthy Avatar
    Rev. Scott McCarthy

    Has anyone (in the name of multitudes of English-speaking Catholics around the world) thought about applying for an ‘indult’ or special permission from Rome (or whoever seems to be in charge) to use temporarily the former Sacramentary until a better translation is provided? It seems to me that many requests given to influential people over the years brought the Tridentine Mass mode back. Perhaps similar methods need to be utilized for the benefit of those same multitudes of Catholics who yearn for a more prayerful and easily understood ritual language that, as the Vatican Documents called for, is adapted to local and national languages and cultures (without the need for staying “close to the Latin”).

  40. Theresa Maccarone Avatar
    Theresa Maccarone

    I think it’s telling that my parish community replaced the Nicene Creed with the Apostles’ Creed.

  41. Ed Nash Avatar
    Ed Nash

    Heard in a high school classroom:

    “We believe in consubstantiation; we say that every week.”

    There was a big track meet that afternoon, they might have been preoccupied.

    Words matter.

  42. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    In Italy the third memorial acclamation runs

    Tu ci hai redenti con la tua croce e la tua resurrezione: salvaci, o Salvatore del mondo.

    — in English “You who have redeemed us with your cross and resurrection: save us, O Saviour of the world.”

    One wonders why English-speaking countries were made to follow the word-order of the Latin Salvator mundi, salva nos, in accordance with the diktats of LA, when other countries were given more latitude in this regard. Of course there are many more examples; this is just one that I encountered last Sunday.

    1. Elisabeth Ahn Avatar
      Elisabeth Ahn

      @Paul Inwood #79:

      in English “You who have redeemed us with your cross and resurrection: save us, O Saviour of the world.”

      You must have typed this wrong, for this reads exactly like the Italian version.

      In English, “save us…” comes first, followed by “you who have…”, right?

      FYI, in Korea, the third memorial acclamation goes something like this: “Lord you who have saved us with your cross and resurrection, receive the glory forever.”

      Not sure why and/or how this came to be, but there it is. Talk about being given more latitude.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        @Elisabeth Ahn:

        Elizabeth, I did not type it wrong. I gave a literal English translation of the Italian to demonstrate that they have the sentence structure in the reverse order from the text we are now compelled to use.

    2. Todd Flowerday Avatar

      @Paul Inwood:
      Smells like a Vox Clara intervention. I used to find the aliteration off-putting. But you hear it a lot in hip-hop, though that’s probably not the inculturation Cardinal Pell was reaching for.

  43. Philip Sandstrom Avatar
    Philip Sandstrom

    For some reason which I do not understand my previous attempt at a comment got lost in the aether. What I was intending to mention was concerning the word ‘consubstantial’ used in the Latin and the English version of the Nicean Creed. The original Greek word was “homoousion’ which would be better translated by “of the same Nature’ but I was told upon asking that that translation was ‘too Nicean’ — my whole reply was after all it was the translation of a ‘word chosen with great care’ by the Fathers of Nicea — but it not win me the discussion, which was aimable anyway. I still think it would be a better, more easily understandable translation.

  44. Tom Poelker Avatar
    Tom Poelker

    The liturgy wars are about whether liturgy is supposed to affect people, move them to live in more Christian ways or if it is some combination of doing something owed to God and transmitting a culture. MR3 is about the second.

    Video record the people next Sunday and see what percentage of the time and what share of the people are involved in full, conscious, and active participation.

    The battle cry needs to be “Back to Basics!” Realize that there are just two important things going on: sharing Scripture and sharing the Lord’s Supper. Therefore fight to:

    1. Eliminate all the presidential prayers written for another language and culture which merely bore our congregations. This is the one thing I would encourage presiders to do immediately and encourage bishops to notice (and ignore) how few complain.

    2. Restore the flow of the Liturgy of the Eucharist so that the take, pray, share, consume actions of Jesus are not interrupted by theological declarations and miscellaneous rituals. Then people may better understand and participate in a single communal action. This is the major reform that follows logically from V2.

    3. Change the clerical culture so that people normally celebrate the Liturgy of the Word in small communities, so they can ask questions and bring up the struggles in their lives. This means more ministers of the Word who are not expected to be public preachers, apologists, administrators, canonists, or church employees.

    4. Restore the Psalter to being the vast majority of Christian song. The ICEL Psalter was written to make that easier in modern English and contemporary musical forms. Music in liturgy exists to unify the public prayer of the assembly.

    5. Train priests to preside as if the quality of what they do makes a difference, not just read the service, that liturgy is supposed to be both affective and effective.

    Early Christians gathered to ponder how to live based on the teachings of Jesus and to be strengthened by communal sharing. Fight to restore this.

    1. Shaughn Casey Avatar
      Shaughn Casey

      @Tom Poelker:

      You sound remarkably like Martin Bucer. 😉

  45. Sean Loughlin Avatar
    Sean Loughlin

    I am definitely with Moroney on this one. I was in a Trappist monastery in Ireland and the VII reforms hit us in 1968. Within about a year we had switched completely from Latin to English. This, of course, was not what the Council had asked for. The following years, in my opinion, were a period of great confusion and turmoil for the entire Church and even for the Trappists. I think Benedict XVI tried to bring some order and beauty back to the liturgy and I am fully behind his reforms. I am not a great fan of the Tridentine Mass but I think that, by abandoning Latin and especially the great musical tradition that expressed it, we lost something extremely valuable. I find the current musical offerings at Mass lamentable.

  46. Fr Mark Leenane Avatar
    Fr Mark Leenane

    Dear Sean,

    There are many different styles of music that are appropriate for use at mass. I am not aware of any requirement to abandon the musical tradition of the church.

    In our own parish we enjoy beautiful organ music, unaccompanied singing, Gregorian plainchant, songs sung in Malayalam, music with a rock or country flavour, spirituals and well written traditional and modern hymns and mass parts.

    This is sometimes all in the same mass! but generally we try to ensure that the musical offering is coherent and relates to the readings and feast being celebrated. What matters is not so much the style but the quality.

    It may be true that some of the music written after the second Vatican council was done in a hurry to meet the need of celebrating the mass in the vernacular, however there is no need to keep using music that has outlived its usefulness.

    We live at a time when the musical resources available to parishes are rich and varied. In our own parish we invest heavily in both people and equipment in order to have music worthy of the liturgy. We do our best but of course do not always get it right.

    I am sorry you have not had a good musical experience at mass. It is perfectly possible to have good uplifting music at mass (and at the risk of introducing a negative note, into what I hope is a positive post even whilst trying to negotiate the tortured syntax of the new translation).

    1. Sean Loughlin Avatar
      Sean Loughlin

      @Fr Mark Leenane:
      Dear Fr Mark,

      I have had good musical experiences at Mass on occasions but the general standard, as a rule, is pretty low. Personally, I don’t think the music of Palestrina, Byrd, Tallis, Victoria etc. has outlived its usefulness. On the contrary, there has been a great revival of this music in England albeit mainly by the Anglicans. There are some Catholic exceptions such as Westminster Cathedral or Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge where, until last year, I sang in the Latin Schola.

      1. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        @Sean Loughlin:

        It sounds to me as if you are confusing repertoire with “standards”. I can well remember many performances before the Council of Palestrina, Byrd, Tallis, Victoria, etc, and a good proportion of them were pretty bad, attempted by choirs that did not have the gifts, experience or direction to enable it to happen well. Likewise, I can recall many excruciatingly bad renditions of Gregorian chant. It’s not always about the music you choose but often about the way in which it is done. Many choirs then, as well as many choirs now, have different gifts; and singing 16th century polyphony well is often not one of them. It has always been a specialized area.

        The problem is that as soon as we equate repertoire with intrinsic value, we necessarily jettison the ability to discern not only the worth of the pieces we are promoting but also the standard of their performance. But discernment is the name of the game.

        And Vatican II made it clear that aesthetic considerations were only one part of that discernment. SC 112 talks about the way the music should fit the liturgy. Even the most beautiful performance of a Lassus motet may not actually be what the rite or the assembly require at this moment in time.

  47. Fr Mark Leenane Avatar
    Fr Mark Leenane

    Dear Sean, The composers you mention are wonderful. I was referring to some pieces written quickly after the Council which served a purpose but which have now been superseded by superior compositions. I should have realised that you have had a wide experience of church music but your statement that “I find the current musical offerings at mass lamentable” does not accord with the situation in my own parish and I am sure many others.

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