Thursday, 26 April 2007

I know this won't be a popular view in some quarters...

OK, I've read what everyone's saying about the new ICEL translation. In particular, I've read Fr Tim's e-mail exchange with Peter Finn, the comments on Fr Tim's post and the posts that various other people have written linking to it. All appear to agree whole-heartedly with Fr Tim.

Well, I'm sorry, but although I agree with much of what Fr Tim says, I can quite see the ICEL's point of view. I've already said that I'm in favour of the use of more Latin, and that I love the Latin Mass. I'm a linguist and a lover of both poetry and prayer, so obviously I'm in favour of the use of liturgical language which is beautiful, meaningful and faithful to the original text. I'm also not a theologian, and have to bow to the superior knowledge of those who have studied theology and understand things that I don't.

But just hang on a minute. Let's not assume that everyone who writes a Catholic blog, or everyone who goes to Tridentine Masses, or everyone who has read dozens of books about Catholic theology, is typical of your average person in the pew. And let's also not assume that your average person in the pew doesn't need to be considered in all this.

When the Novus Ordo Mass was introduced, there was a huge amount of fuss about it. Some people never got over it, and have barely been back to church since. Now, I could act all 'holier than thou' and say maybe it was good riddance, that they were the chaff that needed to be separated out, that they can't have been very devoted to God and the Church if they left the Church altogether because they didn't like the new form of the Mass.

I could, but what about "Feed my lambs"? What about "more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents..."? How does anyone other than God know what was truly in those people's hearts, and how their lives could have been different had they not felt alienated by their Mother Church?

Now, some will say that the reaction against the Novus Ordo Mass was correct, or at least understandable, because of the poverty of its language in comparison with the richness of the original language. They might argue that there will be no such backlash against the new translation, which brings back the beauty and the full meaning of the original words.

But that's not the whole story. People generally don't like change, particularly in something which is as ingrained in their psyche and as much a part of their identity as their form of religious worship.

It's all very well to say the new translation is more faithful to the original, and that it mirrors more closely the wording of the Mass in other languages. The fact is that most British and American people only speak one language, and nobody under the age of 40 remembers what Mass was like before Vatican II. That's a lot of people to alienate if you get the introduction of another change wrong.

You're going to be telling people that the Missal they were given by their late lamented grandmother as a First Communion present and have used for a quarter of a century is now defunct. You'll be telling them that they'll no longer be able to join in the Mass throughout the English-speaking world without the need for a written copy of the text to help them to follow along. You'll be telling people who (as so many have) have fallen away from the Church for a while and are making the first tentative steps to come home again that home isn't the way it was when they left.

All these things take adjustment. The feelings of people who have only ever known one way of doing things need to be taken into account. Obviously, this is not a reason for change not to happen. But it is a reason to exercise some caution and sensitivity in introducing that change. Let's not assume that every Catholic in the English-speaking world is going to welcome the new translation with open arms.

One of the commenters to Fr Tim's post said, "I don't normally advocate going against the teaching authority of the Church, but in this case I hope some loose cannons among the clergy decide to take the law into their own hands and introduce the new translations."

I sincerely hope they don't. I would be as disturbed to find that some priests were taking the law into their own hands on this issue as I am to see some of the liturgical abuses of the woolly liberals that have been highlighted on various blogs recently. Disobedience is disobedience, no matter how wrong you think the instruction is.

Let's have a bit of patience on this, chaps - and perhaps a bit more humility as well, and understanding that ours is not the only point of view that needs to be considered.


Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...


newhousenewjob said...

Oh come on, S-P - it's not like you to be so reticent!

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

Well I'm not very popular these days ;-).

I kind of agree with you. I don't like parts of the new "translation."

The "and with your spirit" is so, so, so meaningless...ugh.

I think there should be change, but it should be done incrementally on a strict timetable, worldwide.

1. Immediate introduction of new vernacular (you can't phase THIS in).
2. Every six months after this, one part of the Mass will be introduced in Latin, say, 1st. Agnus dei, 2. six months after, Gloria, 3, six months after that, Pater Noster, 4. six months after that Sanctus, 5. six months after that, words of consecration, consecratory prayer.

I would not have the Credo in Latin and would leave just about everything else in the vernacular I think...except for the opening and closing rites.

Simon-Peter Vickers-Buckley said...

I need a woman...can you help me out, do you have any friends (see my blog, you'll find what I am talking about).

Mac McLernon said...

Problem is, S-P is torn... he doesn't like the Novus Ordo full stop, so I suspect one translation is as bad as any other as far as he's concerned...

Anyway, NHNJ, I wouldn't advocate use of the new texts until they've been approved, but if the original Latin had been put on Wikipedia, and various phrases ironed out through discussion in various online forums, you'd have had an English translation months ago...

Every other country has its texts ready for use: why is ICEL sitting on the text? The excuse about catechetical materials is tosh. They certainly weren't that reticent when the Novus Ordo came in...

newhousenewjob said...

S-P - Interesting, I would have chosen to have the Credo in Latin at about number 3 on your timetable.

Mac - No, they weren't that reticent when the Novus Ordo came out, and look what a mess they made of that. I'm not surprised they're being more cautious this time... :¬)

Ma Beck said...

I certainly don't think (and was not taught) that "And with your spirit" is meaningless.
It is the proper response to an ordained man offering you "Peace."
You offer back peace to him, and to the spirit which descended upon him at ordination.
"Et cum spiritu tuo" does not now, nor has it ever meant "And also with you."
That is nothing but a mistranslation.
Why everything BUT the Credo? (Just curious.)