MR1: Low or Common?

An interesting thread at PrayTell describing running the new translation Eucharistic Prayers through grade-level analyzing software

From the start I’ve been less impressed, if not least-impressed, with the argument that the new translation is beyond ordinary comprehension by a listener or praying pew person. As a speaker and writer of English, I’m least impressed with the bias for Latin-derived words. English is a substantial absorber of languages, not just Norman French, and is generally classified with the Germanic languages, not the Latin-derived ones.

Liam offered this comment:

Well, while Comme le prevoit made the mistake of aiming for low vernacular in the name of intelligibility by the young et cet., LA has made the mistake of fetishizing Latin syntax: both sets of translation principles make the goal of beauty subordinate to other more practical concerns.

From my reading of Comme le Prevoit, I don’t recall an aim at a “low vernacular.” Section 15 does mention “common usage”:

The language chosen should be that in “common” usage, that is, suited to the greater number of the faithful who speak it in everyday use, even “children and persons of small education” (Paul VI in the allocution cited). However, the language should not be “common” in the bad sense, but “worthy of expressing the highest realities” (ibid.).

I would say that in practice, the first round of Mass translations achieved in practice a bland product. But I think it’s wrong to blame Comme le Prevoit for that. It was clear that in language groups around the world, the second editions and/or translations were all significantly better than the first. And they used Comme le Prevoit, too. Even though we don’t have the junked texts at hand, a more fair comparison is between MR2 and MR3. Nearly everyone concedes MR1 should be replaced. It continues to mystify me that anyone has allowed the current translation to even be part of the discussion. We have a poor translation, even if we didn’t compare it with its immediate predecessor.

What would interest me is this: If Fr Ruff’s confrere ran the current translation through the wringer. Let’s see just how much better (or worse, if you will) the new one is in a direct comparison.

I will add a note or criticism to the principle in the 1969 guidelines that only one translation should be produced for each language. Countries in which English is a second language probably need a different translation. LA can be rightly criticized for its brush with the fetish of colonialism, as much as for anything else.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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