The failure of the Missal

At the meeting of the leadership team of the ACP on March 23rd 2015, the inappropriateness of the current translation of the liturgy was once again raised.
The ACP attempted to engage the Irish Commission on the Liturgy, before the translation happened and after it appeared. We pointed out to the Irish bishops that the new translation did not communicate with ordinary people. Bishop Donald Trautman, the former chairman of the US bishops’ conference’s Committee on the Liturgy put the issues clearly and comprehensively in the text below. Hopefully, the Irish Bishops will address this issue and, as a temporary solution, they will allow priests to use the 1998 translation of the Missal as suggested by the Bishop Donald Trautman.
Fr. Sean McDonagh
“The new Missal has failed” The Tablet
 24 March 2015 by Bishop Donald Trautman
I add my voice and prayer to Fr O’Collins SJ, call for the 1998 English Missal translation, which was approved by more than two-thirds of the United States bishops, to replace the present failed text of the New Roman Missal.
In his address to the bishops of Brazil in 2013, Pope Francis remarked: “At times we lose people because they don’t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and impart an intellectualism foreign to our people.”
That statement is clearly verified on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception when the New Missal prayer over the Offertory reads: “On account of your prevenient grace”. “Prevenient grace” is a technical theological term that neither priest nor people understand.
In the New Missal we have these words: consubstantial, incarnate, oblation, conciliation, ineffable, unfeigned, and so on. And yet the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which came out of the Second Vatican Council, declared: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity, they should be short, clear – and they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension and normally should not require much explanation” (paragraph 34). These words of an Ecumenical Council trump any document of a curial congregation on translation.
The present New Missal does not communicate in the living language of the worshipping assembly; it fails as a translation. It fails to lead to full conscious and active participation. There have been three national surveys of clergy regarding their views of the New Missal translation. All three surveys confirmed that the celebrants are dissatisfied with the text that is ungrammatical, unintelligible and unproclaimable.
Our translated text is intended for prayer, worship, and lifting up the heart and mind to God. If a translation – no matter how exact – does not communicate in the living language of the liturgical assembly, it fails as a translation. The believer must be able to make the prayer his or her own. St Jerome, the great doctor of the Sacred Scriptures, who spent 20 years translating the Bible into Latin, was not a literalist. He said: “If I translate word by word, it sounds absurd.”
When Pope Francis celebrates Eucharist, he prays at the words of institution that “the Blood of the new and eternal covenant – will be poured out for you and for all.” So do all the bishops and priests of Italy; so do all the bishops and priests in Germany. And yet in the English-speaking world, we pray “for many”. Lay people rightly ask, why the difference? If the liturgy is to evangelise God’s people, there ought to be consensus on such a key doctrinal issue.
I served for six years as the chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, and can attest that the 1998 Missal translation was discussed, debated and approved by more than two-thirds of bishops. That was collegiality in action. But our approved text languished in Rome without comment until the Congregation of Divine Worship issued its own new rules for translation in the 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam.
It is time for church leadership to heed the words of St Jerome. Thank you Fr O’Collins for focusing on this pastoral and theological issue that cries out for attention.
Bishop Donald W. Trautman is the Bishop Emeritus of Erie, Pennsylvania, and the former chairman of the US bishops’ conference’s Committee on the Liturgy

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  1. Tony Phillips says:

    The new missal did indeed fail–the ‘new missal’, of course, being the missal of Paul VI and Bugnini. Empty churches are the result.
    But of course, Bishop Trautman was talking about the new English translation. Well, no translation is perfect–but you can always use Latin for the ordinary, as Vatican II clearly directed us to. Now, if you want a really, really bad translation, then just turn to anything that contains the phrase “And also with you”, a clunky, un-English phrase if there ever was one, and a deliberate mistranslation to boot. And then there’s the ‘We believe’, the truncated Confiteor, the omission of ‘holy’ from the Suscipiat….No. We suffered that for 40 years and we’re not going back there.
    Does anyone really think that approval by the bishops in 1998 is going to impress anyone? Those bishops didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory in other departments, if you get my drift.

  2. The so called “New” Missal is a disaster and I hope the situation is corrected. However, what is even more perplexing and worrisome is the quality of religious leadership that would have approved of the text in the first place. The “behind the scenes stuff” of this situation is very telling…..and I ask, Who in the Vatican is truly listening to “Divine Wisdom”?….

  3. The recent remarks of + Donald Trautman, posted on the Tablet website, regarding the Translation are well worth reading.

  4. Mary Burke says:

    @ 1.
    Point by point:
    1. It’s not the missal of Paul VI and Bugnini but of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and endorsed by subsequent popes.
    2. No translation is perfect but the current one is seriously imperfect. It’s more a word-for-word/line-for-line syntactical replication of a Latin text. Yesterday’s liturgy contains more than its share of poor translations poorly translated.
    3. If lack of intelligibility is the problem, Latin is not the answer. It may be the answer to other questions but not to this one.
    4. ‘And also with you.’ has acquired a noble simplicity over the past forty years. It’s clearly not a mistranslation. If you claim that it’s a deliberate mistranslation the onus is on you to prove it.
    5. ‘We believe.’ (pisteuomen) is the term from the original Greek version of the Symbol of Faith of Nicea actually.
    6. Holiness is one of the marks of the church whether enunciated in a prayer or not.
    7. The approval of 11 bishops’ conferences for the 1998 text is not a matter of impressing anyone. It is they who are the successors of apostles, not the Vatican department which produced the translation.
    8. Your final insinuation, if taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that all of the bishops of the 11 conferences are disqualified from exercising ministry. That’s a non sequitur from the start.
    9. Try using language which builds up. It would be less of a waste of time.

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