The “new” Missal; We can do better

Fr. Anthony Ruff has posted a very interesting, and from our point of view timely, article on his praytell blog titled What Could Follow upon Liturgiam Authenticam? How Could the English Missal Be Improved?
His article is carried below.
The issues with the ‘new’ Missal  are ongoing for us in the ACP.  Difficulties continue to be experienced by so many people with the “new translation” of the Roman Missal. The ACP has decided to highlight the fact that there was, and is, a ready alternative available.
The then ICEL had revised the missal and their draft (the 1998 Missal) was approved by all English speaking conferences of bishops. Sadly it did not get approval from the Vatican and with their new regulation “Liturgiam Authenticam we have ended up with the current missal and all the problems it causes for celebrants and congregations alike.  These problems have been well rehearsed and point to poor grammar, poor syntax, false cognates, and despite the new regulation of strict literal translation even omissions from the original Latin text.
To show that an alternative is available the ACP is making available the prayers for the Advent and Christmas seasons along with the Order of the Mass from the 1998 Missal in a printed format. The opening prayer, prayer over gifts, prefaces and prayer after communion are also available  at the Liturgy Preparation page on our site.
We would welcome feedback about whether or not renewed pressure needs to be put on our bishops about the ongoing difficulties we are experiencing with the celebration of the Eucharist while using the “new” Roman Missal. We would also like to know if you regard the 1998 Missal as a viable alternative.
As the cost of printing and postage is expensive we request a donation of €20 from people in Ireland and €25 from people living elsewhere to cover printing, postage and packing.
Copies can be requested  by contacting
Liamy Mac Nally, Sheeaune, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland
Cheques should be made payable to ‘Association of Catholic Priests’.
Suggested donation to cover printing and postage; €20 for Ireland and €25 for all other places.
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What Could Follow upon Liturgiam Authenticam? How Could the English Missal Be Improved?
Anthony Ruff, OSB
Pray Tell recently posted an interview with Swiss liturgist Martin Klöckener on the significance of the 27 new members named to the Congregation for Divine Worship by Pope Francis. Klöckener speculated that some of the Pope’s appointments could be connected to his desire to reexamine liturgical translations:
What this Congregation [for Divine Worship – ed.] would need, in my opinion, is more understanding of the scholarly field and more opening. This is apparent in the conflict about the liturgical books. Since 2001 the Vatican demands a retranslation of these books according to narrow prescriptions in the sense of greater literalness. This led to quarrels. Only the English Missal is completed. The German-language bishops’ conferences have put a stop to the process after the translations were completed. They held that such a literal translation of the liturgy would ultimately do damage to the life of faith. At the time it is an open question whether the CDW and the French-language bishops’ conferences can come to agreement around the French translation, where similar difficulties have come to light.
Perhaps this is also a reason why Bishop Charles Morerod from west Switzerland and the French bishop Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin were called to be members of the congregation. Aubertin is president of the French liturgy commission. The nomination of both of them could certainly stand in connection to the open question of the future of the new French translation of the missal. The pope would then be strengthening the role of the local churches in this process.
It seems likely that Pope Francis would be interested in reexamining the issue of  liturgical translation, given his interest in decentralization and greater respect for local and national churches.
Andrea Grillo, in “Evangelii Gaudium promotes authentic liturgy. A turning point toward a sixth Instruction on the Reform of the Liturgy?”, noted that the basis for a revisiting of Liturgiam Authenticam, the 2011Roman document on translation, is found in Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. He concluded:

After a troubled fifteen-year reign, Liturgiam Authenticam has reached the end of its line. Not only have legitimate criticisms been raised from the start, from both doctrinal and pastoral points of view, but the facts have demonstrated it to be, throughout these years, both flawed in theory and virtually inapplicable in practice. And where the matter has been forced despite these problems, the result has been liturgical texts that are technically “correct” documents – that is, consistent with poorly conceived norms – but which lack, as a result, any relationship with living language, real life, and the lived faith of those for whose use the texts are intended. At the root of everything is not a philological problem, but a theological and anthropological one: a rigid tradition and the presumption that the experience of the liturgical subject is unimportant.

Pray Tell contributor Rita Ferrone has raised the question, “What Should A Sixth Instruction Contain?”, and Pray Tell readers gave many thoughtful suggestions for a successor document.
In “Liturgical Translation: The Road Ahead,” Rita Ferrone helpfully recounted the history of liturgical translation since Vatican II. She concluded,

Tension exists between the decentralized model of oversight for translations (described in Sacrosanctum Concilium), and the tightly controlled, centralized one (as imposed upon ICEL, and reinforced by Vox Clara). How will this tension be resolved? Pope Francis has encouraged bishops to take initiatives on behalf of their local churches, suggesting fresh openness to decentralization. Might the balance change for translations as well?

What follows is a piece I originally wrote two and a half years ago. I still stand by the suggestions I then made. I am at pains to find a solution that promotes peace and harmony, with no winners and losers but a Church that is built up. And since the liturgical texts I quote are from the upcoming Mass of the First Sunday of Advent, this seems like a good time to reprint this piece.
*         *         *         *         *
A Unifying Solution for the Missal Situation
There is a solution to the Missal situation which is surprisingly easy, and the result would be, as we say in Minnesota, not half bad. It’s this: keep the revised Order of Mass of 2011 with its congregational parts, and plug in the priest’s parts from the 1998 translation.
That might sound like an odd hybrid, and there would be just a bit of inconsistency, but I think it would be workable. And to put it in crassly political terms, it could be a unifier because, when the dust had settled, there wouldn’t be clear winners and losers. Isn’t it high time we think about bringing reconciliation and unity to an area marked by so much rancor and division?
Quick review: 1974 Sacramentary is the previous translation, rather flat with its simple language. 1998 Sacramentary is the one experts worked on for some 17 years and all the bishops’ conferences of the English-speaking world approved, but Rome rejected. The 2011 Missal is in part the product of ICEL’s work in accord with the controversial 2001 Roman document Liturgiam authenticam, but much of 2011 is scarred by the 10,000+ changes which Rome (and its committee Vox Clara) made at the last minute.
1974: (Collect, I Advent)
All-powerful God, increase our strength of will
for doing good
that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming
and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven.
Almighty God, strengthen the resolve
of your faithful people
to prepare for the coming of your Christ
by works of justice and mercy,
so that when we go forth to meet him
he may call us to sit at his right hand
and possess the kingdom of heaven.
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth
to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy
to possess the heavenly kingdom.
As you see, the 1998 presidential texts are quite formal and elevated, making them much closer to 2011 than 1974. Most everyone would agree that the English in 1998 is poetically better than 2011.
To explain the win/win of this proposal, I will use the handy terms, however inadequate, “traditionalist” and “progressive.” Though I’m sure there are people who hold all sorts of combinations of positions that don’t fit into these two categories, I’ll use the terms here to describe the people who liked 1998 (I’m calling them progressives) and those who defend 2011 (I’m calling them traditionalists). I know, I know, there are people of quite conservative sensitivities who support 1998, and some progressives who had this or that problem with 1998, but go with it for the sake of my argument.
The win/win is this: the progressives who like 1998 would shout a cry of joy to see its presidential texts come in, but the traditionalists who have felt obligated to defend 2011 would concede that they are getting most of what they wanted in terms of more formal and elevated language. 1998 is a far cry from the 1974 which they (and not only they) disliked. And the traditionalists are also getting much by way of accurate translation of the Latin, for 1998 is generally very accurate. And if they’re honest (and have been reading Pray Tell), traditionalists know that Vox Clara introduced inaccuracies into 2011 all over the place. And of course the traditionalists are getting the revised Order of Mass with “and with your spirit” and “under my roof” and all the rest.
This sounds like a simple cut and paste, 2011 plus 1998, but there would be some decisions to make and a few details to iron out. This is why it would probably take more like three years than one. (I’ve already worked it all out and will be waiting by in phone in case anyone in Rome or DC wishes to ring me up.) The 1998 prefaces already begin nicely with “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,” which would preserve the lovely transition from the new congregational response “It is right and just.” But where 1998 leaves out some of the angels and powers at the end, it should be no problem to plug in the last bit from 2011 with a fairly seamless fit. I’d keep the new, more elaborate preface chant tone from 2011 and fit it to the 1998 preface texts, perhaps with some slight editing of the 2011 endings for normal English word order and good word accent distribution.
The heart of this proposal is the introduction into the 2011 Missal of four things from 1998: the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Preface, and Prayer after Communion. But there are nooks and crannies in the Roman Missal, various proper and particular texts in the course of the liturgical year. Solemn blessings, for example. These all would have to be dealt with, but it shouldn’t take that long.
One might want to adjust the 2011 Order of Mass here and there, e.g. by changing “consubstantial” to “of one substance” to throw a bone to the progressives, but I suspect most of them wouldn’t insist on this if it were the price to pay to be rid of the 2011 presidential texts. And I would settle for having just one collect option, the 1998 translation of the Latin collect, but the bishops might be feeling generous and re-approve the 3-year cycle of original collect texts they once approved many years ago which matches the readings in the 3-year lectionary. (Liturgiam authenticam allows for such original texts not based on Latin, by the way.)
Perhaps the 2011 Eucharistic Prayers would need to be smoothed out a bit, but their more formal tone could be preserved for the most part.
There might be some light editing of the 1998 presidential texts here and there, but I’m pretty optimistic it could be run through quickly. Maybe a word or phrase here or there in 1998 would have to be made more faithful to the Latin, but it would have to be without loss of the beautiful flow of the 1998 text. Some of the “inclusive language” of 1998 might need to be “un-inclusified” – and this might be advisable to appease the traditionalists and reassure them that their many and loud criticisms of the 1998 text were heard. I suspect progressives could accept some compromise on this front as long as 1998 is substantially preserved.
There is the issue of size and weight of the book. Though the Latin missal is a one-volume book, there is no reason, save extreme legalism of the pre-Francis curial variety, why a vernacular Missal can’t appear in two volumes, one for Sunday and one for everything else. Call it the “acolytes’ arms relief indult.”
If this thing took about 3 years to work out, it would mean that the 2011 Missal lasted about 5 to 6 years – which is still longer than some of those interim missals right after Vatican Two. There is precedent for the timeframe. And publishers like Liturgical Press wouldn’t mind at all a new press run! (They’re not paying me to make this proposal).
Pastorally, the transition to this new Missal would be quite painless. The people in the pews would hardly notice, since their texts aren’t changing. Priests would notice – and they’re the ones who dislike the new text and would be most happy to have better and more sensible and more beautiful English to proclaim. One would say as little as possible to the people – perhaps a brief notice that the new Missal has proven itself and the new texts have become known and accepted by people, and now some slight improvements are being made to the priest’s texts, without bringing up the whole sordid behind-the-scenes saga of what happened to ICEL under Cardinal Medina and all the rest. Or maybe one could get away with saying nothing at all to the people?
I’ve been around the block enough by now to know that when I make a grand proposal such as this, which is the high middle ground destined to unite everyone in perfect peace, with me as the hero who saved the day, the result rather is that I’m fired on from all sides.
I’m ready. Fire away.

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  1. Gerard Moloney says:

    I’ve had it with the new missal. It’s been in use for five long years and has not won acceptance. Time to dump or ignore it. The 1998 translation is the way to go.

  2. Joe O'Leary says:

    Retaining the 2011 Eucharistic Prayers is a bad idea. Just compare the 1974 and 2011 versions of the Roman Canon (EP 1) to see why.
    I find that the alternative EPs found at the back of the book are much more effective. Why not compose many more such alternatives?

  3. Catherine Reid says:

    I am a supporter of the ACP but when I read the above article and saw the following I was disgusted:
    “The people in the pews would hardly notice”. “One would say as little as possible to the people”. “Maybe one could get away with saying nothing at all to the people?” How condescending is that!
    As someone who has never changed to the new responses and never will, and I know I am not the only dissenter in the pews on Sunday, I disagree when Fr. Anthony says that the “people” have accepted the new text.
    So much for the ACP’s new way of doing things! Seems like the same old dictatorship to me!
    I presume someone actually read the article before they posted it on the website.

  4. Sean O'Donnell says:

    Very much agree with Catherine – it does across as rather patronising to us apparently “know nothings” in the pews.

  5. Roy Donovan says:

    I agree with Catherine.
    I too am disgusted with ‘awr’s’ suggestions.
    I find myself increasingly alienated by the new missal.
    At a recent funeral the main celebrant seemed annoyed that people weren’t responding. He repeated a few times the response – ‘and with your spirit’. He was getting no response and there was no sense that people were getting excited as at a match – with your spirits and the fists up = we are with you! He kept on making the response himself.
    In conscience, I cannot and will never dig the new missal. I feel as a priest that I am becoming an outsider in the Church and that I don’t belong. The Roman authorities, through the missal’s imposition, I presume, are trying to get inside us by the process of osmosis. If we say it often enough, we will become one with it! So, the abnormal becomes normal. Is that what is happening to priests?
    I am taken aback that many priests seem to have swallowed the new missal ‘hook, line and sinker’.
    The language of the new missal is the opposite of the message of Christmas – a big ‘NO NO’ to the Incarnation. For me, the new missal is a denial that God became a human being. We don’t do the language of everyday people!
    So much for literal latin translations as if it they were the language of Jesus. Jesus never spoke in latin!
    “The Lord be with you. And also with you”. This response captures the essence of every coming together of Christian people. This response, for me, surgically captures the message of Christmas. God became a human being, not a spirit!

  6. Joe O'Leary says:

    Well spotted Catherine Reid. Fr Ruff seems to have got his head into a twist from writing too much about liturgy day in day out.

  7. Gerard Moloney says:

    Catherine and Roy, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with Roy, no 5. It is good to know I am not a lone ranger. Thank you to all who contribute on this site, I have learnt a great deal, especially from the commentaries. God bless the work.

  9. The celebration of the Eucharist is not about priest or people but it is about priest and people.
    For those of us who share in the celebration of the Eucharist, the language offered has not been a comfortable experience. Too often our attention has been drawn to the awkwardness of a stilted phrase rather than its prayerful meaning. Priest and people pray the Eucharist together, yet we are in danger of moving back towards the pattern of people listening to the priest who is himself uncertain how to handle the inadequacy of the text. We have paid a high price for ignoring the dynamic equivalence principle of translation. The Eucharist is about sharing. Thomas O’Loughlin in his article “Giving or Sharing” in the May 2014 issue of The Furrow makes this point. “So what is the Eucharist? Clearly, this is a place of sharing par excellence. We share in Christ’s praise of the Father, we share in his Spirit dwelling within us, we become sharers in the new covenant, and we share in the meal at his table! The Eucharistic verbs-when we are in a reflective mode-are all linked to sharing, participating and acting together”
    Now five years on it would seem that the principle of ignoring the argument has won the day. A great pity but not surprising.

  10. W O'Brien says:

    Joseph Gallagher (then Monsignor) wrote a beautiful article for America Magazine on translating the documents of the Second Vatican Council. He was given the literal translations of the documents and then put them into acceptable English. Literal translations could range from the inane to the obscene because of the variations in word usage and idiomatic expressions. It is worth looking back to those times to critique our own times and our own need to have literal translations. Gallagher was a former editor of the Catholic newspaper in his diocese, he was a teacher of English, philosophy, and homiletics, and provided one of the finest translations of Dante in English. (See America Magazine July 3 2006. available on line)

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