Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 14, 2008
U.S. bishops frustrated with Mass translation
Part of new missal rejected because of archaic language
By NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN
"As we and our priests become more familiar with the language, it will not cause the problems we fear."
Bishop Arthur Serratelli
"These orations need reworking if we are going to proclaim them without leaving people scratching their heads," said Bishop Victor Galeone of St. Augustine, Fla.
Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., thanked Galeone for "giving me the courage for this moment" and said 24 of the 26 members of his council of priests had urged him to reject the translation.
It was the second of 12 sections of the Roman Missal translation project that will come before the bishops through at least 2010. A new translation of the Mass is being developed in order to have the English more closely reflect the original Latin.
The translation had come from the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, known as ICEL, but many bishops expressed frustration that recommendations they had submitted to ICEL to clarify the sentence structure or revise archaic language had been ignored.
Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops' Committee on Divine Worship, defended the new translation.
He called the document "a fresh translation that in many ways is very excellent" and expressed confidence that "as we and our priests become more familiar with the language, it will not cause the problems we fear."
Serratelli said four of the 11 English-speaking bishops' conferences belonging to ICEL had already approved the translation that was before the bishops. He estimated that a return to ICEL would delay the document by at least a year and a half.
Serratelli continued to defend the translation in a column published in his diocesan newspaper after the June meeting.
"These orations need reworking if we are going to proclaim them without leaving people scratching their heads."
Bishop Victor Galeone
While the liturgical translations were "not dummied down to the most common denominator" they remain "readily accessible to anyone," he wrote.
Serratelli said that "there is something more at stake than pleasing individual tastes and preferences in the new liturgical translations."
"Certainly, some sentences could be translated to mimic our common speech. But they are not. And with good reason," he added.
Of the word "ineffable," he wrote, "For sure, this word does not come from the street language of the contemporary individual. But, then, why cannot the liturgy use words that elevate the language from the street to the altar?"
At the June meeting, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco urged approval of the translation, although he said he recognized that "much could be improved."
"Let's get a new Sacramentary before they all fall apart in the sacristy," he said.
Archbishop John Vlazny of Portland, Ore., also urged approval, calling the bishops to "a measure of humility" in accepting the work of the many people involved in the translation.
"It may be imperfect," he said, adding that the English translation of the Roman Missal after the Second Vatican Council "also was imperfect, but it became familiar."
But Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati said those who were saying "Let's move forward" had to consider what they were moving toward. "We're moving forward into a linguistic swamp," he said.
"It's better to stop than to move forward into a swamp."
At the June meeting, the bishops decided not to send the translation back to ICEL if the document was ultimately rejected.
Instead they directed their Committee on Divine Worship to take suggestions from all the bishops once again and return the document to the full body of bishops for later consideration.
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