CDWDS Decree on Magnum Principium 17-19: The Translation Process

The CDWDS spends a lot of text on The translation process, eleven numbered paragraphs. Today, we’ll take the first three, starting with an admission that the matter of translation is no simple thing:

17. The experience of recent years has taught us that the work of translating biblical and liturgical texts is a complex task. Since the main responsibility in this matter lies with the Bishops, the Episcopal Conference must take on this task directly, [Cf. Pontificia Commissio Decretis Concilii Vaticani II interpretandis, Responsa ad proposita dubia I. De Conferentiis Episcopalibus: AAS 60 (1968) 361-362; John Paul II, Litterae Apostolicae Motu Proprio datae de theologica et iuridica natura Conferentiarum EpiscoporumApostolos suos, n. 15: AAS 90 (1998) 651.] with the necessary collaboration of suitable persons, including experts trained in the translation of liturgical Latin, and with the help of suitable resources, [Cf. Inter Oecumenici 40b.] including the preparation of a ratio translationis and a dictionary for non-biblical liturgical expressions.

It is most true that translation is more art than academic assignment. The assembly of “suitable persons” often overlooks people who might add expertise in the spoken proclamation of texts–what will work for mostly unskilled speakers often working in subpar acoustics.

18. The Episcopal Liturgy Commission plays a decisive role. [Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 44] Bishops, who are responsible for decision-making, should use a stable group of experts to ensure that there is continuity in the work. In order to guarantee that the correct and integral expression of the faith of the Catholic Church in a given language is transmitted according to her teaching and with the appropriate vocabulary, there is a clear need for the opinion of the Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This was mentioned earlier in the document: the interface between liturgy and mainstream theology. It can be a difficult thing, at least in the US, to see stumbles and misunderstandings in theology where liturgy is concerned. I think there is a place for considerations of christology, ecclesiology, and Biblical studies to enhance the expression of liturgical prayer. 

Once that exchange of input occurs, the bishops vote:

The final decisions are taken by the Episcopal Conference, a body which allows all the Bishops, who have the right to vote, to share their task as teachers of the people of God, for liturgical prayer is the clearest manifestation of what the Church believes and is obliged to believe.

The CDWDS offers a lengthy quote from Pope Francis’ 2017 document:

19. Indeed, “the goal of the translation of liturgical texts and of biblical texts for the Liturgy of the Word is to announce the word of salvation to the faithful in obedience to the faith and to express the prayer of the Church to the Lord. For this purpose it is necessary to communicate to a given people using its own language all that the Church intended to communicate to other people through the Latin language. While fidelity cannot always be judged by individual words but must be sought in the context of the whole communicative act and according to its literary genre, nevertheless some particular terms must also be considered in the context of the entire Catholic faith because each translation of texts must be congruent with sound doctrine”. [Magnum Principium: AAS 109 (2017) 968.]

I appreciate the recognition of context. First, the notion of genre, that liturgy is an assemblage of cultural style and not a monolith. Second, that individual words and phrases have a context in a larger whole. Most importantly, liturgical texts, spoken or sung, or informative pieces provided to prepare leaders and even ordinary lay people, have a larger aim: to communicate an active, participative faith intended to form disciples, not merely entertain spectators. 

The link of the English translation is here

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in CDWDS Decree on Magnum Principium, Liturgy, post-conciliar liturgy documents. Bookmark the permalink.

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