Proposal for a short term solution to Liturgy Problem

It is great that the ACP leadership commissioned that professional survey of Irish priests about their reaction to the translation of the prayers of the Eucharist which were imposed so arbitrarily about three years ago on the English-speaking Catholic world.
The results are very interesting and disturbing.
It is quite striking that three out of every four Irish priests feel themselves obliged to obey Rome and use the new translation even though more than 60% of the priests surveyed are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with this translation. This indicates that a very large percentage of Irish priests find their consciences pulling them in two opposite directions. A tradition of priestly obedience and loyalty to Rome has created an obligation to follow the new rules. But at the same time the priests have a serious pastoral concern that the new translation is doing a disservice to their congregations and to their own celebration of the Eucharist; and so their consciences are calling them to break the rules.
It is quite likely that some of the Irish bishops find themselves in the same dilemma. But even if they are personally quite satisfied with the new translation it must surely be a matter of concern for them that so many of their priests are facing this dilemma of conscience.
In the medium to long-term the way forward must be to abandon the new translation in whole or in part and to go forward or go back to a different translation. But bishops and priests may, with good reason, feel that another major change at present would be very costly and would give rise to even further outrage.
Is there any short-term compromise which could ease up the problem? Maybe there is. The biggest problem with the new translation is with the parts that are read by the priest rather than with the responses of the congregation. So a short-term partial solution could be to authorize priests to use the older translation or the revised version which the International Commission for English in the Liturgy (ICEL) completed in 1998.
The many priests who have problems with the new translation would then be free to dig out the old missals or to download the 1998 translation and to make use of one or other, for the Eucharistic prayers and the other prayers which the priests read. Meanwhile the congregations would continue for the present to use the new translation for their responses. This would not involve imposing any new cost on the parishes.
Perhaps the ACP leadership could consult the membership to see if they think this might ease up the problem at least for the immediate future. Suppose the members agree that this would be a good way forward in the short-term. Then the Irish bishops could be asked to consult with the episcopal conferences in other English-speaking countries to consult with their priests and laity with a view to making a joint request to Rome to approve of this approach. Such a request would surely find a more favourable response from Rome under Pope Francis than happened in the years before Francis became pope. Of course it would be embarrassing for the Pope to call for a complete rejection of the new translation while Benedict is still around. But surely there could be a low-key acceptance of such an approach ‘where pastoral considerations make it necessary.’

Similar Posts


  1. Joe O'Leary says:

    This is very much a place to apply the adage salus animarum suprema lex, the supreme law is the salvation of souls.
    Our liturgical problems go beyond translation. The Eucharist should be celebrated less frequently and a context in communal prayer or lectio divina should be provided within which the Eucharist could then breathe and show forth its meaning.

  2. Con Devree says:

    Donal Dorr advises that the laity continue with the new translation for their participation, and that the priests be allowed to choose according to their preference. Is he suggesting a form of clericalism?
    Because it is a more faithful translation I prefer the new form and have some sympathy for those who don’t. But how to resolve it? I think it best to follow the Church guidelines. If these were to change I would accept the decision.
    It is good to hear how many priests who dislike the new translation use it in obedience to the Church guidelines. This is the essence of witness.

  3. Jesus spoke Aramaic, His words translated first into Greek, and only then to Latin, so why is the Latin always cited as if it were itself the holy thing? Like the false gods excoriorated by Moses, it`s high time to see it for what it is: a vehicle at removes from Christ`s words. To paraphrase, Latin was made by man, not man for Latin.
    And then, when it comes to the nitty-gritty of translation, the idol reveals itself again and again. One particularly annoying example of this for me is the obstinate insertion in the new translation of the Mass of the expression “under my roof”, which I have seen justified by those who “prefer the new translation because it is more faithful to the Latin”, rather than the simple and direct, “I am not worthy to receive you,” when it is no aid to my personal encounter with Christ at Communion to remember the centurion in Matthew. How can it be argued that at that precious moment, the moment of the reception of the body of Christ, that the experience should be enhanced for me by insisting on its merely historical locale by remembering the centurion? At that moment, it is the coming of Christ that matters to me, and the showy insistence on faithfulness to the Latin, against idiomatic naturalness, on the historical reference, is nothing but a distraction from that.
    Alas, I also find the argument specious that it is an impressive example of witness to faith that those who do not approve of the translation should persist in using it. Instead it reminds me of the argument, “I did it because canon law says I should, not that I wanted to do it, or believed in it.”
    I think that’s the start of corruption because it is an offence against one of the most precious gifts of God – our conscience.

  4. The question of the form of liturgy currently in use has wide implications. In 2013, a Colloquium ‘Remembering Vatican II – Some Anglican Perspectives’ was opened with an address by Archbishop Michael Jackson and the closing address was given by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. At this Colloquium an Anglican Professor of Theology made the following statement, ‘Regarding the revised Roman Mass, the decision to use the more literal translations of the Latin rather than continue to use ecumenically approved texts strikes many Anglican liturgical theologians as an expression of retrenchment or rapprochement’. ‘It is also worth noting that one cannot easily separate the concerns of Anglican liturgists from those of the ecumenical community generally, including many Roman Catholic liturgists.’
    There will be no Ecumenical Conference at Glenstal this year. This is a consequence of the refusal, last year, by the local Bishop to allow a shared Eucharist to be held in celebration of the 50th Conference. This refusal was hard to understand as a shared Eucharist was celebrated at the 21st Conference many years ago and this was with the approval of the local Roman Catholic Bishop.
    This raises the question as to how seriously the Roman Church is in regard to promoting Ecumenism.

  5. Mary Cunningham says:

    On this Pentecost Day and at the start of Ecumenical Bible Week, I pray that the Holy Spirit will open our hearts and minds.
    Could we dare to hope for unity in sharing the Eucharist?
    Reflect, if you wish on the clearly written liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer available on
    See Holy Communion Two page 201
    Could we dare to dream of unity beginning with sharing the Eucharist

  6. MJT @4.
    You are right to connect freedom of conscience with the translations in the Liturgy. If we allow ourselves to be dictated to even down to the words we use to communicate with the Divine we will have lost touch with our own unique relationship with the Divine. As you pointed out the words of Jesus were translated into languages different to the language spoken by Jesus. The Bible from beginning to end was a human book, written by men at different times in different places to address the needs of people in different contexts. To follow ones conscience is to heed the words of Jeremiah: ‘I will put my law within them, and write it on their hearts’. Where would Christianity be today if Jesus had slavishly followed the laws of the Jewish tradition and not followed his conscience?

  7. Con Devree says:

    DOM, could you describe a “shared Eucharist.”
    The teaching on Transubstantiation is at the core of the Roman Catholic Mass. The latter celebrates the authority of the Pope in the prayers for unity in the Eucharistic Prayers.
    How does a “shared Eucharist” circumvent this?
    On foot of events in the Diocese of Armagh a few years ago it seemed that the Catholic Hierarchy and that of the Church of Ireland do not approve of a “shared Eucharist.”

  8. Mary Wood says:

    Eucharist may be conceived as Thanksgiving,Meal and Sacrifice. However, the essential heart and spirit of the Eucharist is communion, Holy Communion. The Eucharist is the setting of that Essential.
    What is Holy Communion? It is the Christ-life, the relationship wherein we are drawn into the life of God. The New Testament consistently refers to the Christian’s trust as a belief (trust) into Christ. (Greek eis Khriston, not the regular Greek usage with the dative case meaning ‘in Christ’). As our theology expresses it , we are incorporated into Christ’s Body, one with him and with all our fellow Christians.
    The sacramental “Holy Communion” is a focus and a food for the Essential Reality of that shared Christ-life. Without that core reality, what is the meaning of the ritual?
    With that core reality comes the concomitant of effectual spiritual communion. It also (to my mind) validates Eucharists shared with other Christians – why not?
    “Ah, but the Church says . . . “ Is the Church equal with Christ the Lord? We know the answer to that.

  9. #9.
    Con Devree, raises some interesting and important questions.
    As there was no ‘Shared Eucharist’, in 2013, at the 50th Glenstal Ecumenical Conference and as I was not at the 21st Conference, where a ‘Shared Eucharist’ was celebrated with the approval of the late Roman Catholic Archbishop Tom Morris, it would be inappropriate for me to comment as I have no personal experience of a ‘Shared Eucharist’. Anyway, my personal beliefs are of little importance.
    However, there are other sources which will be able to provide information about ‘Sharing the Eucharist’. In particular, I would suggest that the work of the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) would be a starting point.
    The advice of Blessed John Henry Newman is worth recalling ‘In the higher world it is otherwise, but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often’.

  10. Con Devree says:

    Mary Wood and DOM
    Thank you both. My interest is in what those who conduct shared Eucharists actually do, given the following paragraphs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
    1400 Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, “have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders.” It is for this reason that, for the Catholic Church, Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible. However these ecclesial communities, “when they commemorate the Lord’s death and resurrection in the Holy Supper… profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory.”
    1401 When, in the Ordinary’s judgment, a grave necessity arises, Catholic ministers may give the sacraments of Eucharist, Penance, and Anointing of the Sick to other Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, who ask for them of their own will, provided they give evidence of holding the Catholic faith regarding these sacraments and possess the required dispositions.
    Reservations relating to the ARCIC report on the Eucharist were expressed on both sides. Those of the Catholic Church can be found some way down at:
    Those of the Anglican Communion at:

  11. I have no intention of using the new translation in any of my responses.

  12. John@13, I too use the older responses as far as I can, but simplicity and directness jar with abstraction and pomposity and there`s a strong sense of uphill struggle. I`m afraid we are back to the old days when the priest was described as “saying” Mass and the rest of us might just as well keep quiet.

  13. A priest friend in an English diocese has informed ne that a priest refusing to celebrate the new translation Mass has been threatened with the revocation of his faculties if he persists. There is something seriously wrong in these times where such a paradigm of poor pastoral leadership abounds.

  14. Mr. Larry Cribben says:

    It is well known that something is always lost in translation. here we have translation on translation on translation. Let the academics argue among themselves as to which translation is the right one, then ignore it. Listen to the ladies. where would the Catholic Church be without them?

  15. Mr. Larry Cribben @16, You suggest we should just ignore the problem of translation altogether. But what then? What do we do when called on to respond at Mass? What do we do or say? Like the long legged fly in Yeats, we should just let our minds move upon silence? Are you proposing a new liturgy based on our silence while the priest witters away in whatever language he chooses? But that`s already arrived -almost- courtesy of the new translation.
    As for listening to the ladies, which ladies do you mean? The American nuns? Or those clamouring for admission to the priesthood? Or those, the many but not all, as that significant phrase in the text of the Mass has it, who have given up on the church and who as mothers don`t see it necessary to go to or to bring their children to church any longer, apart from on carnival days of wedding etc? Or the Marian devotees? Or that large number of women who attend church but who don`t often make headlines or become involved in argument about church matters at all? I`m sure there are many other categories among the ladies you mention, but which are you referring to?

Join the Discussion

Keep the following in mind when writing a comment

  • Your comment must include your full name, and email. (email will not be published). You may be contacted by email, and it is possible you might be requested to supply your postal address to verify your identity.
  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger. Comments containing vulgarities, personalised insults, slanders or accusations shall be deleted.
  • Keep to the point. Deliberate digressions don't aid the discussion.
  • Including multiple links or coding in your comment will increase the chances of it being automati cally marked as spam.
  • Posts that are merely links to other sites or lengthy quotes may not be published.
  • Brevity. Like homilies keep you comments as short as possible; continued repetitions of a point over various threads will not be published.
  • The decision to publish or not publish a comment is made by the site editor. It will not be possible to reply individually to those whose comments are not published.