No Sour Milk Here

I’m glad I wasn’t at the Catholic Academy of Liturgy proceedings in the Great White North last week. I’ve tried to avoid the countless bloggers who’ve virtually scrambled over themselves to get text on Bishop Trautman’s address. Naturally, if the Erie bishop appeared on the Food Network to whisk an egg, the Catholic bloggerhood would toss out their fry pans and go, in full uniformity, for hard-boiled instead. That is, if there were any eggs left after heaving them in the direction of northwest Pennsylvania.

I have to confess I’ve not always found my liturgical “betters” to be a hospitable folk. Even among progressives, there can be a certain cattiness. One-basin versus two-basin immersion fonts, print readings at bilingual Masses okay, but missalettes, no. Things like that. You want to tell some types to get over themselves. (Which is probably why I enjoy being the foil so often in neo-orthodox Catholic blogdom.) Somewhat symbolic of this was a cocktail hour at a Philadelphis bar many years ago. I ordered a nice black beer from Brazil, while most of my colleagues settled in for wine or the usual high-proof stuff.

I‘m an adventurous sort, but not all people in church ministry are built that way. Needless to say, most of the St Blogger conservatives are probably used to George McFly’s bar call, “Milk, chocolate!”

That being said, I can’t get excited about St Blog’s egg toss this week. I can’t remember all the places I’ve looked in on, counted the dittoheads and moved on. What can you say to people who like their milk the way they like it and no moving off point?

I hold less enthusiasm for the upcoming changes in the Ordo Missae. I think the CDWDS, Vox Clara, and ICEL have done badly for us, and that’s before I get into the substance of transliteration or whatever they’re calling it these days.

1. Enough Catholics who probably don’t otherwise give a darn about liturgical words think Rome and the bishops have more important things to do. They’re still upset about mismanaging pedophiles. If the financial mismanagement turns out to be a big story, it will further highlight episcopal impotence. The party line for hiring tough lawyers was to “save the investment heritage of the Church.” If bishops have allowed, by inaction, the frittering away of parish and diocesan money, it sort of blows the whole line of argument out of the water. Which leads me to the next point …

2. Why are bishops involved in the creation stage of texts, anyway? Vatican II was all over the competence of the laity. Aren’t there Latin scholars, poets, Scripture scholars and other experts who aren’t bishops? Your friendly neighborhood Latin professor can’t reform her diocese’s procedures on financial management, but the bishop sure can. One might say it’s part of his job as a shepherd. Vox Clara was a wasteful exercise from the start, adding another layer of translation bureaucracy to the mix. Naturally, they got all those nice trips to various Eastern and Southern hemisphere English-speaking locales for their troubles.

3. Lay people in the American parishes I know have pretty much memorized their part in the Ordo Missae. Quite frankly, even I have a hard time following the Ordo in the hymnal or missalette these days. It will be very, very interesting to see what the missalette publishers come up with when the new words hit print. I suspect that implementation will come rather slow at first. Enough priests have liturgy far enough down on their priorities that it will be an even tougher switch for them. For one thing, they have a lot more words.

4. If there was real respect for the laity, ICEL would’ve tackled the priest parts of the Mass first, promulgated them, then waited for the input from the parishes. That part of the Roman Missal could’ve been in print by now. I suspect the reason for not upgrading the sacramentary was political.

5. Lastly (for now), whatever the flawed Liturgiam Authenticam says about translation, the important thing for a living Missal is not accuracy from the Latin source. What is vital for Catholics is to get an artistic translation that prays well. Progressives have conceded since the mid-70’s that the current Roman Missal is inadequate. The conservatives, now that they’ve come back from pouting, are late, very late to that particular party.

From what I’ve seen of the Ordo Missae is that we have something just as poor, but for different reasons. When discerning lay Catholics see the fuss is about a deeper fussiness of language, they might rightfully ask, “Is it worth the bother?”

“If it keeps their minds off sex predators and collection skimmers, maybe so.”

Let the eggs fly.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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11 Responses to No Sour Milk Here

  1. KiwiNomad06 says:

    Not being a liturgist, I had no idea there was any kind of fuss about print readings. When I was in France in Amboise, they had their welcoming all worked out. They sussed out at the door who spoke a language other than French. Then a kind person brought over a paper with the readings on coloured paper in the appropriate language. I could tell who the other English speakers were by the colour of their paper;-)

    The eggs won’t fly from me. I have more basic issues to solve for myself about Church. Infighting about words doesn’t exactly help me.

  2. STMSem says:

    Todd,
    I think you could have a very interesting conversation with our Latin professor here at Conception. He is the main tranlator for Vox Clara and has also spent time with the USCCB. I sure think the next few years will be interesting when it comes to the liturgy.

  3. Todd says:

    STMSem, no doubt I would. I have a generally high regard for Benedictines as liturgists and scholars. Were I unmarried and seeking a religious community, it would likely be at Conception or some similar place. Perhaps my greatest sense of loss from the latest liturgy tussles is that the net of consultation was so narrowly thrown.

  4. Gavin says:

    My response to Trautman (and the whole “fish man(person)” is rather immature) is if you don’t like the translation, why not do it in Latin? Seems to me that’s the best way to protest an inadequate translation.

    While I DO like what I’ve heard of Vox Clara’s work, I think translation is a bigger issue than “they translated et cum spiritu as and also with you, they are st00pid.” Did the ICEL translation go too far into the realm of a paraphrase? Arguably. That doesn’t mean that the only way to prevent that is a literal word-for-word translation. “Pro multis” should be for/to many, “spiritu” shouldn’t just disappear, but not every bit of the Mass is so cut and dry that there is a single objectively right translation, as many on the right are saying.

    I think we’d have to go through the whole thing and state our preference for each part (a blog series, perhaps?), but I’d agree, for example, that “consubstantial” is inadequate for current English speakers. I didn’t even know that was a word. Substantial means “more than enough”, so is Jesus more than enough equally with the Father? Of course I know what consubstantial is supposed to mean, I’m just saying that it doesn’t help anything to use it. “one in being” works, the old Anglican translation is even better I think, “being of one substance with the Father”. But consubstantial? Why not just add 2 letters and stick to consubstantialem? Oh wait, because a translation is supposed to aid people understanding the words…

    As I said, just stick to Latin and you don’t have to worry about this whole headache :P

  5. Eric says:

    Todd, you bring up a good point about widening consultation in the preparation of liturgical translations. I would even go so far as to be radical and cast the net wider. For example, there’s so much discussion on whether people will understand “consubstantial,” or even whether they understand “one in being.” Why not ask them?

    It would not be expensive, for example, to pull some of these contested words into a scientifically designed research study to give a word to regular Catholics and ask them what it means. See what they say. My hunch is that people would have difficulty explaining “one in being,” but a much larger percentage would be flummoxed by “consubstantial.” Then we could use the more understandable option (realizing that with such a complex idea, no one version is going to be instantaneously understood by all). Maybe I’m wrong, but at least the basis for using one or the other (or other renditions, as Gavin points out) would be removed from the politics of warring camps and ideologies to a more objective basis.

    Of course we would never do this, because the Vatican would be totally opposed to asking the people anything.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    Most of us Catholics who go to Mass (those who even bother to go, that is) go in order to hear the word of God and receive the Body of Christ. The arcane rarified discussions on “and with your spirit,” “and with you,” “one in being,” “consubstantial”, “for all,” “for the many”, and on and on and on have very little meaning in our lived or prayer lives. I’m sure that, whatever translations end up by being used will have no measurable effect on how we pray, what we hear, and what we believe as we incorporate the Eucharist into our lives. The few among us who qualify as “liturgy freaks” can twist their knickers in knots all they want, but, in the end, the “multus” don’t give a flying fig whether the English translation is faithful to the original Latin or not. What is important is the manner in which the Mass is celebrated, the music is crafted and presented, the word is preached, and the celebrant can show that he believes what he says …. these are what are important.

    This all smacks way too much of the proverbial rearrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    I have spoken!

  7. STMSem says:

    Todd,
    Actually our professor is a dio. priest from Alabama who used to be a Christian Brother. But anyway, if you can ever get away from KC you should take a few days for a quiet retreat here in the calming hills of Nodaway County. Talk to you soon.

  8. Tony says:

    Why are bishops involved in the creation stage of texts, anyway? Vatican II was all over the competence of the laity. Aren’t there Latin scholars, poets, Scripture scholars and other experts who aren’t bishops?

    Possibly, but the teaching authority of the Church is not the laity. We are not doing poetry here. We are accurately translating the Word of God. “For many” means something substantially different than “for all” (don’t even get me started about an inaccurate Greek -> Latin translation.)

    If Latin scholars are involved and the final product has an ecclesiastic imprimatur on it, I, as a practicing Catholic won’t have a problem with it, but it warms my heart to see the bishops involved.

    1. Enough Catholics who probably don’t otherwise give a darn about liturgical words think Rome and the bishops have more important things to do. They’re still upset about mismanaging pedophiles.

    Laity and “pedpohile scandal”. But let’s be accurate. It’s ephebophiles. It always amuses me that our liberal bretheren are the ones screaming the loudest about the “pedophiles”, when it was their “free love” of the 60’s, the “spirit” of Vatican II which erased our concept of sin, and turned us into an “Easter people”, the toleration of sexual activity in our seminaries.

    It’s much like a guy wakling up to a horse drawn carriage, yelling in the horse’s ear and slapping the horse on the rump, and then telling us: “Don’t worry about the liturgy and an accurate translation. You have a carriage to catch”.

    And one of the problems is our congregations have the Novus Ordo “memorized”. They don’t listen to the words they and the priest are saying.

    Maybe a little change will shake them up. Maybe it’ll piss them off. Good. It’ll get a discussion started as to why the changes are happening. Maybe a few people will wake up to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and real Catholic worship in their prayers, instead of snoozing through the prayers so they can get their “bread and wine” and be home in time for the opening kickoff.

    It’s going to be neat to see how many liturgists “get with the program” and attempt to make it work. Maybe we’ll be able to fan the “smoke of Satan” out of the sanctuaries within the next generation. That’s a pretty aggressive timeline I’m praying for, but I think it’s doable.

  9. Gavin says:

    I got an idea during Mass today (the sermon was about this, actually) :

    Why not bring Isaac Watts back to life and have him translate the Mass? Well, maybe because we don’t have that ability, but still, hymn translations are often very accurate to the original. I’m not talking about setting it all to meter (although that would be awesome), but it seems to me that a hymn writer is more skilled at translating texts and maintaining as much of the original as possible. And keeping it beautiful, unless you’re using some post-1980 polically correct “humankind” translation. Plus, it seems to me a translator should keep in mind the speaking meter of the Latin original so as to have the Mass be more easily chanted. It may be out there, but it’s not so bad of an idea as it sounds.

  10. Cantor says:

    Todd, maybe you could post on what you think the flaws in Liturgiam authenticam are?

    Unless, that is, you are just going to refer me to Peter Jeffery’s (flawed?) book. Really, all of the critiques of the document seem to me either to critique things that are not in the document, or to be deficient themselves.

  11. Todd says:

    Maybe Liturgiam Authenticam is worth a series on its own. I’ll have to think about it. I did see Jerrery’s article in Worship a few years back. So color me surprised when he turned up on the NLM site.

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