A reaction to the new texts in New South Wales

Posted by Melanie Lately, guest contributor , 1 July 2011, 9:00
At Mass we have cards in the pews so we can follow the revised translation of the Mass. The options for different parts are there. This week our parish priest used the homily to speak about it. When he read out the words of the Confiteor, with the changes in bold, he was greeted with gales of laughter and even he had to smile.
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
[All strike their breast]
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;
No-one today in their right mind – unless perhaps they have just murdered someone – is going to harp on about “my fault, my fault, my own most grievous fault” while beating their breast, especially if they are reflecting on ordinary everyday thoughts or words that most Mass-goers might be expected to have. The picture the words give of breast-beating illiterate peasants with cloth caps and mud-clotted boots is like something out of Monty Python.
Among consenting adults at Mass it matters little. But it is completely different when it comes to the children. As an educator with children in Catholic schools I wonder if Vox Clara group who came up with this translation have thought about the educational side.
Imagine what would happen if the Government of Britain or the US, Canada or Australia were to bring something like this into state schools with little or no public consultation, and have children learn such words by heart and repeat them over and over for 12 years – there would be a public outcry. And yet the equivalent of this is being foisted on Catholic children in English-speaking lands. Surely if Catholic children are cajoled by teachers at the behest of the Catholic hierarchy to beat their breasts on regular solemn occasions and pronounce themselves inwardly filthy, we should be shown the psychological impact study they carried out. Or did they not do one?
With all the to-do about child abuse in the Catholic Church, you would have thought that it would have led to some consciousness-raising among priests and bishops and someone in Vox Clara or among their apologists might have asked, “Do you think the solemn formal repetition of words like this for 12 years is good for the children? Might this not be seen as a form of psychological child abuse?” Certainly, in our publically funded Catholic schools it could be seen this way.
Priestly prestige and power are on the wane in countries where there are good levels of sanitation, education, food, water, and long life expectancy, and the changes of the liturgy are about retrieving this lost prestige and power. But it is a very underhand way of going about it. The real grievous sin, if we are to speak this language, is in fact this underhand manipulation of the Catholic people, with total disregard for their children.
Melanie Lately is a lay Catholic based in New South Wales with children in Catholic schools.


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  1. Brendan Peters says:

    Hear, hear, Melanie.

  2. Brother Luke says:

    “In my opinion,” Ms. Lately is making a mountain out of a mole hill. For generatons Catholics have “taped” their breast of atonement and humility when saying the Confiteor. All of a sudden it’s going to have a negative effect on children? It sounds to me as if Ms. Lately was just looking for something to write about.

    I agree there is a great deal of craziness in the Church today coming out of Rome, this one just doesn’t fit into that category.

    Brother Luke

  3. LittleBear says:

    Hello Melanie,
    I’m afraid that our bishops haven’t given a thought as to the effect of these words upon our children. Sadly, I don’t think that they even care. The bishops are too concerned with obeying everything coming out of the Vatican.

    In addition, in America, the bishops are looking to make money on the new missals, sacramentaries, and—oh yes, on the new revised Bibles—where they get a healthy kick-back. It’s all about money, my dear.

  4. For awhile I was debating if my characterization of the new Confetior as ‘child abuse’ was going too far–but apparently I’m not the only one that sees it that way–I’ve often thought that by inculcating children to believe this about themselves will allow pedophile priests to continue to abuse them–the sexually abused child will believe they ‘deserved’ it because they were “great sinners”……………………

  5. Joe Murphey says:

    Of course, the 12 year exercise might take off in an opposite direction. The notion that church rituals aren’t really to be taken very seriously at all — sort of analogous position to the Protestant one, that the Roman Church is built around empty rituals.

    The point shouldn’t be to make liturgy more Latin. It should be to make it meaningful, interior.

  6. Here in France we don’t (or rarely) have the confiteor during masses, however when I went to Ukraine and went to the mass there, is Russian Language, I saw it was and was not shocked at all.

    Today, I told my wife that nowadays people (including me) have great difficulty to recognise their sins. People prefer to find excuses than to recognize fault. I told her that I think that it can reveal how little we really believe in the forgiveness of God. When we really realize how great is God’s love and forgiveness, then there’s no more shame to recognize, 3 times or more in a row, how pitiful we are. Nothing wrong in that. It’s wrong if God doesn’t love and forgive. Otherwise it’s plain right. That’s my opinion and that’s why this story doesn’t shock me at all 🙂

  7. Couldn’t agree more! Is this really going to bring back the prestige and power of the church? And what about words such as “hosts” in the Sanctus? Doesn’t “God of power and might” have more meaning. And don’t we also refer to the Eucharistic bread as host? And what about “I am not worthy that You come under my roof”? What’s that mean, the roof of my mouth? I’m just saying, the whole issue of this translation is ridiculous. No! We are not anxiously awaiting this ‘gift’ of the Church.”

  8. Another reason we need women priests. I feel there is no input from women and/or the laity when the “powers to be” act this way.

  9. I’m thinking the new translation is one small step in the right direction. If you have any issues with it, you should offer it up! ‘Not my will, but thy will be done.’

  10. LittleBear says:

    Dear Ken,

    The Liturgy is where the People of God come to praise, worship, celebrate the Living God. They come as disciples of Jesus and as people who have been infused with the power of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, in Confirmation, in Holy Orders.

    The Last Supper was celebrated in the everyday language of Aramaic—the vernacular of the Jewish people in Palestine. The liturgy in 21st Century should be in the everyday English that is used in America, Canada, England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

    Liturgy is NOT supposed to be a torture! Everyone, even the children, should be able to participate. But the ‘goobledegook’ that the Vatican has decreed (and our bishops have fallen all over themselves to accept),is a mind-numbing, tongue-twisting MESS!

  11. Justiniano Liebl says:

    I think that the Sunday Gospel of today should become one of very few dogmas in our RCC. Matthew 11: 25,26 “At that time Jesus said, “Father, Lord of heaven and earth! I thank you because you have shown to the unlearned what you have hidden from the wise and learned. Yes, Father, this was done by your own choice and pleasure.”

    Some day the hierarchy of our Church is going to have to stumble upon the elephant in the room. The sooner the better, since we still believe that the only reason for the existence of the RCC is “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” which according to Jesus is the ”Good News” that merited his birth, life, assassination, resurrection and his continual presence with us today: the governance of his “Abbá, Daddy” in modern parlance “that other possible society”, that “other possible world” , different from our world of today where every 4 seconds one of our sisters or brothers dies of hunger as we nonchalantly continue to destroy our dear Mother Earth by our consumer greed.

    Justiniano de Managua

  12. I think the bishops threw in the towel on the new translation long ago. I could hardly blame them, given the way their labors on the 1998 translation were scorned. Yet the people of God are now faced with the ghastly mess. They should throw in the towel too, return the texts to sender, and let the Vatican clear up the mess it has single-handedly made.

  13. This seems an overreaction to me. Nowhere does it say the children (or adults) are “filthy.” It merely states that we sin deliberately. Sin is our own “fault.” As a teacher — granted in America, where this tendency may be more pronounced — I’ve found children have quite a high opinion of themselves. Parents have made sure that their children have outrageously high levels of “self-esteem.” A little humility & acceptance of personal responsibility in Mass won’t do them any harm, and may even be helpful! If parents and catechists are doing their jobs, this will make children thoughtful of their own actions, not passive victims of another’s. After all, all of the adults in Mass are saying this, too!

  14. Littlebear, I think Hebrew was used at the Last Supper for the prayers. Perhaps the Scriptures were in Hebrew or Greek and the other parts in the spoken language of Aramaic.

    In a similar way today, we use Latin, Greek, and English during Mass.

  15. L. Macari says:

    The more one looks at this translation the more it is seen as problematic. Even those promoting its use are making heavy weather of explaining the changes. The change to “consubstantial with the Father” in the Creed from “of one being with the Father” (which possibly could have been changed to “of one substance…”)was explained recently. However the explanation was not at all convincing particularly when one looks up the dictionary meaning of consubstantial – of the same substance

    The mea culpa, mea culpa … works reasonably well in Latin as it is poetic even if a bit over the top. In English it does not work at all. Of course the people do not need to accept this translation and continue to respond in the old way or just say the prayers silently.

    On the matter of the translation of Domine non sum dignus … The text is a modification of a scriptural quote where the speaker says that he is not worthy for Christ to go to his home but he only needs to say the word and his servant will be healed. However this is not relevant to the situation at Mass and the current English translation is much better. The Italian response (translated) is “Lord I am not worthy to eat at your table only say the word and I will be saved”. So this does not stick slavishly to the Latin. The other problem with this response is the translation of “sanabitur anima mea” as “my soul shall be healed”. This was used in the original vernacular translation and was changed to the current one possibly because of the way that “soul shall be healed” can be misheard as “sole shall be heeled”

    It would appear that in sticking rigidly to Latin the translators of the Missal have had no thought to English idiom or language or even variations in meaning in different parts of the English speaking world.

    I have a suggestion which could permit this new English missal to be used- it could become a reference translation for the English speaking world and that local versions could use this instead of the Latin version as the basis translation for the production of working versions.

  16. How revealing! I believe that the “gales of laughter” in response to the Confiteor are the purest indication of the need for some –what shall I say — penitential gravitas? in our prayers. The laughter indicates a blindness to personal sinfulness and its effects on others. Yet I know that the people of this Bew South Wales parish can be vicious gossips, porn consumers, adulterers, drunks, aborters… just like the people of any parish, mine included.
    I have taught in Catholic schools and I think that there is psychological abuse –a moral starvation that deprives the kids of good conscience formation. Are there no angelic looking nasty girls in New South Wales who bring classmates to tears? No bullies, cyber or otherwise? No young swaggering males already puffing up their egos by making “things” of girls? Yet in a flurry of generous class projects caring for the poor whom they do not personally know, they remain unaware that the lies they told about the girl two rows over are sins, sometimes quite devastating sins. Why would we deprive them of the extremely healthy path of repentence and forgiveness offered in Catholicism?
    I heard Michelle Obama mention that kids today are much “more vicious” to each other than they were when she was young. I agree. Why then would we deprive them of the the insight and maturation that can come from “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa?

  17. Barbie, I suggest you look up Matthew 8:8.

    I think too that most people know that the Gettysburg Address is not the house where Lincoln lived. [And Lincoln didn’t use ‘street language’ in his speech.] Most people know the difference between a match in Croke Park, a match you use to light a candle and a match between a man and woman planning to marry. Context.

    When my father brought me to Mass in Latin when I was a kid I was formed by his faith and that of the other worshipping adults in the crowded church. I didn’t feel alienated but part of a living community of faith.

    I didn’t feel abused by ‘through my fault, etc.’ I know many children here in the Philippines who have been abused and Melanie Lately’s suggestion that the Confiteor is abuse trivialises what they and many others have been through. And not all children are sinless. Recently a 13-year-old boy in Belfast was charged with raping a 5-year-old boy. A letter from France in today’s Irish Times tells of a 14-year-old boy there punching a 13-year-old girl to death last week with his bare hands. I know these are extreme cases but I don’t recall myself or any of my contemporaries as being angels when we were children. but we knew what was right and wrong.

    Our liturgy is meant to be the highest expression of faith of an adult community into which children grow, not that of a community of children. The language we use in addressing God should reflect that.

    Here is a different response from Australia to the introduction of the new English translation there: http://cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=26893

  18. Some scholars make the suggestion that the Centurion’s slave (pais) would normally have been a sexual partner in the Roman culture of that time. So the revival of the centurion’s prayer at Mass could be seen as an unwitting move in the direction of inclusion.

  19. L. Macari says:

    Although I really do not want to use the new prayers I thought it would be a good idea to purchase a copy and was able to obtain a CTS booklet which has the new English mass and the Italian (which hasnt been altered!)

    I had originally been let to believe that the Credo would only have “I believe” at the beginning but it is repeated at each of the sections. It is interesting that the Italian uses “of the same substance” where our translation uses “consubstantial” also in Eucharistic prayer 1 where there is the odd section referring to people not present the little word “or” is replaced in Italian by “and” which makes it at least intelligible.

    As mentioned previously the response domine non sum dignus is not as the Latin but “I am not worthy to participate at your table. say but one word and I will be saved” This is much better than the under my roof etc.

    Italian as a language is much closer to Latin than English but those who have translated the missal have avoided some the strict adherence to Latin to produce a translation which is much better than the clumsy constructions which have been used in the new English missal in the attempt to stay close to the Latin.

    I think we should ask our priests to say requiems for the loss of our Liturgy!

  20. A Catholic politician who attended High Mass and took communion in our Anglican church last Sunday commented what a pleasure it was to have the familiar words of the creed etc instead of the many infelicities imposed on his people. But why do your priests put up with it? Surely they could take the pulse of their own people and ask them whether ‘with your spirit ‘ etc sits well with them , and if it doesn’t drop it. Or would some righteous spiv report one to Rome? At very least you might surreptitiously borrow some of the many beautiful Collects in A Prayer Book of Australia crafted for the (same) lectionary readings and so speak with the glorious cadences of English rather than the cumbersome and utterly unmemorable latinisms of your new missal– Just a thought.

  21. Ken, in response to your comment No.9, above.
    I don’t believe that the new translation is God’s Will. In fact, I’m convinced that the manner of its imposition and certain aspects of it, are a betrayal of what Jesus lived and preached. The Last Supper – the first Eucharist – happened in a context of betrayal. Do we ever learn?
    We are called to seek the truth. Romans 12: 1 – 2, urges us to worship God in a way that is worthy of thinking people.

  22. I still hear the resonant “And also with you!” at the end of Mass from the aged, conservative congregation in Cork last Sunday, despite the hearty “And with your spirit” with which they began. If the faithful reject “And with your spirit” (a response occurring 5 times at every Mass) the whole new translation project will be covered with the ridicule it deserves.

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