Knock, Knock, Knockin’ On Translation’s Door

Frequent guest Jimmy Mac sent me a link to America‘s piece penned by Bishop Victor Galeone of St Augustine (Florida). If you get America, this is an insightful read. These were highlights for me:

It is important to note that Liturgiam Authenticam does not mandate a strictly literal translation of the Latin. Paragraph 20 merely stipulates that the translation must render “the original texts faithfully and accurately into the vernacular.” In order to achieve that end, it is not necessary to sacrifice either clarity or fluency. But in my opinion, the newly proposed ICEL translations, for the most part, are a rather stilted rendering of the Latin.

The liturgy tussles are far more complex than left versus right. Galeone stops short of slamming Liturgiam Authenticam, but he says the document isn’t being faithfully and accurately followed by ICEL. This was big:

At the Orlando conference, it was pointed out that only eight bishops had submitted amendments to alter the proposed texts. The legal maxim “silence gives consent” should warrant the conclusion that the vast majority of bishops agree with the proposed translations. I submitted no amendments. I refrained from doing so out of frustration. At our meeting in Los Angeles two years ago, I submitted four amendments with well-reasoned explanations as to why the texts were flawed. Not one amendment was accepted, nor was any reason given for their rejection. I have spoken with other bishops who feel equally frustrated.

So the bishops still aren’t happy with the new ‘n’ improved ICEL. Well-reasoned input is rejected without explanation. And frustration’s the result? You’d think Rome sees its bishops as something more than mid-level mouthpieces against abortion and in favor of the one-big-happy-Roman-family.

I’m wondering how the USCCB go-along caucus will deal with clergy back home. They have to bring all this stuff back to their diocese and try to get the parish pastors on board. I think they’re going to get more lip than the bishops were willing to give in their meetings.

Any lip from the commentariat here?

(Image credit: Fr Mike Thompson’s home page.)

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Knock, Knock, Knockin’ On Translation’s Door

  1. Would this be a good time and place to flog my new book about the ministry of church communications?!? My motto: don’t get mad, get published.

  2. Todd says:

    lol; anytime, Meredith. Anytime.

  3. Chase says:

    A very interesting take by an “insider” on this issue. I don’t know whether it’s comforting that the hierarchy is just as frustrated as the average Catholic on these new translations OR if it’s just more frustrating!

    In a somewhat related note dealing with these translations – I think it would be worth addressing in this blog the idea of having “A Hymnal” once these changes are implemented. Every major Protestant denomination has managed successfully to accomplish this – probably most especially the Episcopalians with The Hymnal 1982. Maybe this would help bring about more participation in the liturgy as well as singing. Every congregation would have a similar repertoire and know where in the book to turn to for the readings, etc. Of course this wouldn’t go over well with the Tradies, but I think it’s certainly something worth discussing for the other 99.2% of the parishes out there.

    Another somewhat related, yet random thought while I’m at it… why didn’t the ICEL bother to revamp the archaic rendering of the “Our Father” in the liturgy? That’s something that’s always bothered me!

  4. Randolph Nichols says:

    Regarding the above reference to The Hymnal 1982, keep in mind that the Episcopal Church in the United States is a relatively small and homogeneous body. Though back in the 1960s one progressive liturgist, Fr. Joseph Nolan, proposed adopting the 1940 Episcopal hymnal for Catholic worship, such a move required greater unanimity than Catholics could muster. As our current tranlation dilemma proves, nothing has changed.

  5. Liam says:

    The 1940 Hymnal is a great monument in American hymnal publishing.

    I would love to see my parish’s own fabled hymnal – Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Canticles (2d ed. 1983) – which has been out of print for a generation waiting for the translations of the MIssal and Lectionary to get stabilized, become a widely known tool. I have encouraged the powers that be to consider licensing electronic forms of the service music and psalter as separate modules, because they would be a rich resource where there is so much dross (the hymn module also contains pearls, but I imagine every parish has its own hymn preferences that are highly balkanized).

  6. Oh, Chase…no, no, no- don’t travel down that road for simply one obvious reason that is alluded to in Randolph’s post. You can reasonably expect to walk into whatever remaining mainstream denominational Christian church in town and see their “official” hymnal sitting neatly in pew pockets or in rows on carts. What you cannot reasonably expect is that they’re actually used beyond any miniscule proportion of sung worship at the same church. If they’re singing in the congregation, they’re singing from rote memory or while viewing rolling text of a wide variety of praise chorus or anthemic love songs to Jesus; truth be told, their singing is often just as anemic as the average RC congregations’.
    A national RC hymnal would be just as obsolete once it’s unpacked at each parish, as is a new car’s sticker value plummets once its owner drives it off the lot.

  7. Chase says:

    These are all good points. I can’t say that I’m entirely sold on the whole “national hymnal” ideal, but I do think it is worth discussion.

  8. Rob F. says:


    ICEL was specifically told not to change the Our Father.

    I haven’t noticed a single “average catholic” who has been frustrated by the new translation, only us liturgy wonks. But I suspect a change to the Our Father would be frustrating to almost all catholics. Such a change would be met with all of the obedience found in the widespread lack of acceptance of ICEL’s 1970s re-rendering of the Hail Mary and the Glory be. Those translations are found in the English breviary, but are not used. A new translation of the Our Father would be found in the English missal, but would not be used any more often, suspect.

    On the plus side though, if it were done and promoted with draconian enforcement, it might inspire more chanting of the Pater noster, which would be a very good thing.

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