US Catholic Faith in Real Life

From "bow" to "bend," or how not to pray in English

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Like the Energizer Bunny, the fiasco that is the revised translation of the Roman Missal just keeps going. It seems, according to a story at NCROnline, that we still do not have a final English translation of the Mass--one which we are obliged to use a year from this Advent. In fact, somebody--and the who is a big question--is fiddling with thousands of words and expressions, apparently after noticing some egregious errors. One them instructs the presider to "bend" during the eucharistic prayer rather than "bow." If you can't handle a simple rubrical instruction in English, just how do you manage all those delicate theological concepts? (If you want more, you can head over to Anthony Ruff's excellent Praytell blog.)

I have been pretty clear about my position on these translations: They are, overall, bad, and their implementation will be a pastoral disaster. In fact, as I argue in my December column, they mark the final abandonment of the Vatican II principle that, in the reform of the liturgy, the full, conscious, and active participation of the faithful is the aim to be considered above all else.

But I am sick to death of everyone presuming that the Congregation for Worship has the right to do whatever it pleases with any liturgical translation. Missouri priest and liturgist Paul Turner confirms what I have long thought about the translation principles found in Liturgiam authenticam, which initiated this mess: "It was not just a review of the translation rules, but also how the final decisions would be made." In other words, the Congregation for Worship claims that it is the final arbiter of the translation.

But not even the pope can overrule the explicit instruciton of the Second Vatican Council, beginning in paragraph 36 of Sacrosanctum concilium, that it is the conferences of bishops that are to determine vernacular translations, to be "approved, that is, confirmed' by the Holy See--not edited, altered, or otherwise tinkered with. No Vatican instruction on liturgical translation can trump a conciliar document that had less than 10 dissenting votes. And if my word isn't good enough, read a Canadian bishop and canonist's take on the same.

Of course, it is clear that few in authority have bothered to really read the entirety the liturgy constitution, and those that have seem completely willing to roll over on what is the most important element of a renewed liturgy: a translation that is accurate, understandable, pray-able, usable. Will no one stand up for the council and the reform it began, its most well-received and beloved accomplishment? Where is Bob Taft, or any other pull-no-punches commentator on things liturgical who will stick their necks out on on this one and call a spade a spade?