Why new Mass translations were necessary

37 Responses

  1. Martin Keenan says:

    The Cardinals intervention is timely. The Second Vatican Council taught . . in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds be attuned to their voices, and that they cooperate with heavenly grace lest they receive it in vain . . (SC n.11).

    By contrast, the criticism of the new translations as evident here and in the print edition has proceeded from a disposition of antipathy, and has rarely aspired to more than the venting of emotional resistance to a change which, from every rational aspect, has demonstrably been for the better.

    The inadequacy of the old translation of the Order of Mass is manifest as regards (a) unjustified deletion of content (as in the Gloria, for example), (b) careless suppression of scriptural references (as in the Pauline greeting and with your spirit, for example), (c) incorrect translations (visibilium et invisibilum by seen and unseen, for example), (d) ideological bias against the sense of sin (as in the confiteor, for example), and in favour of soft Christianity (as in the introduction to the Our Father, for example), (e) obliteration of essential terms (as in Holy Church, for example), and (f) disruption of Trinitarian formulae (as in the doxology, for example).

  2. Martin Keenan says:

    Those few critics who have condescended to particulars (including those who vaunt their adherence to the Second Vatican Council) have focussed not on the translation itself, but on (1) the content of the Novus Ordo, and (2) the ancient Creeds.

    Mistaking the aim and purpose of liturgical prayer, they have not scrupled to attack these sacred texts as regards vocabulary and syntax (betraying their own carelessness of doctrinal and rhetorical factors), or to abuse without any sense of restraint the authorised language of the sacred liturgy as pompous, phoney, ridiculous, and much else besides.

    In addition, unfounded smears against these texts as being sexist, discriminatory and morally repugnant have been made by those who, even if they did not know better as a matter of historical and linguistic fact, ought never to have ventured to publish such scandalous complaints.

    Over these last several months, the English-speaking portion of Gods people in South Africa have shown themselves to be wilfully blind (among much else which it is their duty to know) to the liturgical texts in use in the other major liturgical languages as well as in other official languages in South Africa to all of which the new English version is now conformed through its faithfulness to the Latin original and have disgraced themselves by their petulant effrontery.

  3. Martin Keenan says:

    My apologies for a typo in the first post. It is “invisibilium”, of course.

  4. Gray says:

    Unfortunately, the Cardinal is correct. The rules governing liturgical translations have changed in the last ten years or so, but not for the better in my opinion. The rules as laid down in 2001 in the Vatican document “Liturgiam Autheticam” (LA) seem to be the problem. The resulting new English text and the reactions to it are just symptoms.

    I recommend anyone interested in the current liturgical debate read Professor Peter Jeffery’s “Translating Tradition: a chant historian reads Liturgam Autheticam”, published in 2005. He’s a Benedictine Oblate and traditionalist Catholic, who you would think would be well disposed to LA, but he calls it “the most ignorant statement of liturgy ever produced by a modern Vatican congregation” (p.98).

    He writes:

    What LA actually demonstrates is how thoroughly the liturgical reform [of the last forty years] has effaced even in Rome itself the memory of what the Roman liturgical past was like. For despite all its protestations about fidelity to tradition, LA is remarkably uninformed about the history of the Roman and Latin liturgical traditions. Its authors are not familiar with the treatment of Greek and Semitic words in the Latin Scriptures and liturgies. They are unacquainted with the history of the Credo and the Kyrie; they use Aquinas as a source of proof texts without regard for what he was actually saying. They do not understand the relationship between the Nova Vulgata and the traditional Vulgate, and seem unaware of the other Latin Bible texts used in the Roman tradition. They show no sign of ever having read any patristic exegesis. They do not know that paraphrases, glosses, and textual adaptations have existed throughout the history of the Roman Mass lectionary and chantbooks, or that other Latin rites followed their own alternative approaches. They are not conversant with any editions of the Missal prior to Paul VI. They are unacquainted with basic information that, in 1900 or 1950, would have been considered common knowledge among liturgical specialists.
    Instead, LA presents a nearly-fundamentalist view of the liturgical texts currently in force. Whatever is in the approved books today (no matter how or when it got there) is the Roman rite by definition, not only juridically but even historically. Since the current books are the Roman rite, they can simply be equated with the Latin liturgical tradition (singular rather than plural), and therefore must represent whatever the Latin Church Fathers taught (the LA authors themselves have not read the Fathers). The result is a kind of telescoped liturgical history in which nothing ever really changed. (p. 52-53)
    [LAs] view of inculturation history is positively fanciful. In this respect it continues what I think has been the most problematic aspect of liturgical renewal generally, a pervasive unawareness that there is anything to be learned from the social sciences about language, culture or community Nowadays we expect the ecclesiastical statements on medical ethics will be up-to-date on biological facts, that statements on Scripture will be fully informed about current biblical scholarship. Indeed the pope consults with a Pontifical Academy of Sciences and a Pontifical Biblical Commission. Yet liturgical practices and policies imposed on millions of worshippers have often been based on little more than conventional assumptions and offhand personal impressions. LA provides all the demonstration we need that much contemporary theorising and policy-making about liturgical inculturation is taking place in an informational vacuum, as if theology and canon law were all one needed to know. (p. 65)
    on the basis of documents like LA, we could never bring back the Counter-Reformation church, with its glorious choir of paddle-wielding schoolteachers, its admirable company of liturgical rubricists, its white-robed host of moralising probabiliorists, terrible as an army of with banners. But we could erect a cruel caricature of it, vastly more impoverished and repressive than the original ever was. There are none-too-subtle indications that that is just what LAs talk of a “new era” really means. (p. 97)
    But the most worrisome thing about LA is that what it lacks in factuality it makes up with naked aggression. It speaks words of power and control rather than cooperation and consultation, much less charity. (p. 97)
    As I interpret LA its main motivation is not opposition to inclusive language as such What [its authors] really want is a more profound sense of the sacred, an experience of connection to what seems age-old and eternal, uniting past and present in an unchanging rite that is above the ebb and flow of ordinary history (p.105)

    Jeffery recognises the need felt by many (but not all) “for a sense of oneness and sacrality that they cannot find in the liturgies actually taking place in churches today”. The rules laid out by LA will not fill that need alone because it concentrates solely on language, but ignores the way language works, ignores non-verbal dynamic elements in the liturgy and the diversity of rites in the Catholic tradition. LA ends up dividing and alienating rather than unifying and drawing in everyone (traditionalist and progressive). Jeffery recommends that LA should be “summarily withdrawn on the grounds that it was released prematurely, before proper consultation with a sufficient number of experts had been completed.” (p. 100).

    The reactions to the new English text are actually quite encouraging because they show just how seriously and personally Catholics take their worship. Condemning those who complain or those who impose their will is not very helpful at this point.

    It is my view that following the new rules of translation will only lead to tensions and division because LA is so powerfully prescriptive and badly founded. We are seeing the effects of this here and now. There is nothing essentially superior about the Latin used in the Roman rite. My appeal to all the English-speaking bishops is to ask the Congregation for Divine Worship to recognise this and revise the rules of translation in LA, taking account (as Jeffery writes) of the Church’s last two thousand years experience, not just the last forty, so that we can be a truly catholic church, united in our diversity, recognising God as both imminent and transcendent, with space for everyone, with a liturgy that uses the best a language has to offer, whether English or Latin or Japanese, that gives glory to God and draws people closer to him.

  5. Gray says:

    Oops – the Jeffery quote on Liturgiam Authenticam should be the most ignorant statement ON liturgy ever produced by a modern Vatican congregation (p.98).

  6. Antoinette says:

    Thank you Cardinal Napier and also Martin Keenan. I am not an intellectual and cannot argue with intellectuals who are clearly only angry with themselves for some reason or other. This is what was done to Our Lord during His life on earth where every word and action of His was watched and analysed for the purpose of putting Truth to death on the Cross of malice and evil.

  7. David says:

    “Phoney” is a harsh word that shouldn’t be used lightly in reference to the new translation, but consider the following.

    The new translation of the Ordinary of the Mass uses the word “chalice” instead of “cup” in the Institution Narrative. For example in Eucharistic Prayer I we have “When supper was ended, he took this precious chalice into his holy and venerable hands.” At the Last Supper did Jesus use a “precious chalice” or a “cup”? The Gospels very clearly say “cup”, but here we have the word “chalice” imposed on the inspired Word of God, presumably to further the “sacred language” agenda of Liturgiam autheticam. “Chalice” is not a word used in any translation of the New Testament, whether the RSV, the NRSV, the NAB, the Oxford Annotated Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, nor any current or older translation of the Bible. Greek-English lexicons and authoritative biblical commentaries all say the meaning of the Greek word which describes what Jesus drank from is “cup” or “drinking vessel”. To say not just “chalice” but “precious chalice” in Eucharistic Prayer I is clearly not a reflection of the biblical text but can be seen as a contrived (phoney) mis-application of the inspired Word of God in an attempt to create a “sacral English”.

    But the most serious problem with the new translation is its rendering of “pro multis” as “for many”, replacing the current “for all” in the Institution narratives of the Eucharistic Prayers. The ordinary sense of the new phrase “which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins” is at odds with orthodox Catholic theology, that Christ died for every human being that has ever or will ever live, not just many of them. Bishop Donald Trautman explained this in an article in the 3 Feb. 2007 edition of The Tablet. In support of the translation “for all” scholars point to the Aramaic texts that underlie the biblical and liturgical texts of the Eucharistic Institution narrative. It can be demonstrated that the Aramaic texts are clearly inclusive and there are also many other Scripture passages documenting Jesus universal salvific will. In Mt. 26:28 we have “For this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” The reference to the “many” is drawn from Is 53:11, where we read “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear.” In this passage the term “many” is a Hebrew word that means “for everyone”, since there was no Hebrew word “for all”. The term was originally inclusive and signified “everybody”. The Jesuit scholar Max Zerwick’s “Philological Analysis of the Greek New Testament” is still an unsurpassed authority. On Mt 26: 28 Zerwick explains that “polloi”, the Greek for “the many”, translates a Semitic expression that can signify a multitude and at the same time a totality. It means “all (who are many)”. This was strongly affirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship in 1970 when the Congregation commissioned Zerwick to research and write an article on the meaning of “pro multis”. That article was published in the official organ of that Congregation (“Notitiae”) in May 1970 (pp 138-140). It states: “According to exegetes, the Aramaic word which in Latin is translated pro multis means pro omnibus: the multitude for whom Christ died is unbounded, which is the same as saying: Christ died for all. St Augustine will help recall this: You see what He has given; find out then what He bought. The Blood of Christ was the price. What is equal to this? What, but the whole world? What, but all nations? ” In 1970 the Congregation for Divine Worship itself made a definitive judgement and published it in its own official organ. Should the word-for-word formal equivalence imperative of Liturgiam Authenticam now be allowed to supersede orthodox Catholic doctrine as expressed in English? The English word “many” does and cannot not mean “everyone”. Yet here the new translation underpinned by the principle of word for word correspondence is shown up as manifestly deficient (phoney), and in of all places the heart of the Eucharist Prayer!

  8. Martin Keenan says:

    The key elements missing from even the most moderate complaints against the new translation are humility and patience. Quite why anyone (even a bishop) should set themselves up in opposition to the ordinary magisterium of the Church in the matter of the official text of the Creed and the words of Institution at Mass is beyond me especially when the grounds of objection are doctrinal.

    The official, authoritative Latin text of the words of Institution reads pro multis and this is to be translated for many because many is what the Latin says multis, not omnibus. How is it even possible for anyone to claim that pro multis is at odds with orthodox Catholic theology?

    The words pro multis have been in the words of Institution since at least the time of St. Ambrose, who died in AD 397. The person who attacks the words for many is attacking the Latin pro multis, and not only the Latin, because the equivalent phrase appears in the ancient Coptic, Syriac, Armenian and Greek liturgies as well. Does this not give pause for thought?

    Any argument based on Bishop Trautmans erroneous understanding of what Fr. Zerwick wrote in Notitiae (May, 1970) is unsound because the former misquotes the latter. I deal with this in a separate post.

    There is nothing contrary to Our Lords teaching or to the teaching of the Church in the phrase for many in the Institution Narrative. Look at the Gospels where we read The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20:28; Mk.10:45). Look also at the Letter to the Hebrews so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people (Heb.9:28).

    Neither these passages, nor the words of Institution in the Mass, are to be read as meaning that Christ gave His life only for the select few. Salvation is offered to all (2Co.5:15) as we assert in the Nicene Creed (for us men and for our salvation) and in the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world). Even within the same passage, St. Paul passes easily from all to many in the context of salvation (Ro.5:12-15 and 18-19) and it is clear he is not contradicting himself.

    But dont take it from me; for the Churchs teaching on for many look at the catechism of the Catholic Church, 605.

  9. Martin Keenan says:

    In 1970, the Novus Ordo was attacked by some people who noticed that in several modern translations (English, Spanish and French among them) the Latin words of Institution had been incorrectly translated. It was argued that by changing the Latin pro multis into the English for many, the Mass was null and void.

    This is the origin of two responses published in 1970 in Notitiae, the official publication of what is now the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

    The first response was published in January 1970 and it made certain assertions about the linguistic capacity of Aramaic which, it is generally conceded, was the language Our Lord habitually spoke during His passible existence.

    I must insert here that there are no Aramaic texts that underlie the biblical and liturgical texts of the Eucharistic Institution narrative if this is intended to imply there are or were documents certainly containing the precise Aramaic words Our Lord spoke at the Last Supper. Nor are the words of Institution in the Mass taken word-for-word from any one of the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper. The words of Institution in the Mass are an ecclesiastical text, but, even so, the phrase “for many” occurs in the narrative of the Last Supper in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark.

    That first response in Notitiae was revised in May 1970 when it was made clear that the earlier assertions about Aramaic’s linguistic capacity were imprecise.

    The full text of the May 1970 response (pp. 138-140, and misquoted by Bishop Trautman in his Tablet article as well as misquoted by David in his post above) reads as follows:-

    “A response was already given in Notitiae, n. 50 (January 1970), pp. 39-40, to the difficulty that in the vernacular interpretations of the words of the consecration of the wine ‘pro omnibus’ was used in place of ‘pro multis.’ Since, however, some uneasiness seems to persist, it seemed that the matter should be addressed again a little more extensively from an exegetical point of view.

    “In that response, one reads: ‘According to exegetes the Aramaic word, which in Latin is translated “pro multis,” means “pro omnibus”. ‘ This assertion should be expressed a little more cautiously. To be exact: In the Hebrew (Aramaic) language there is one word for ‘omnes’ and another for ‘multi’. The word ‘multi’ then, strictly speaking, does not mean ‘omnes’. ”


    It is the very words in the January response which were corrected by Fr. Zerwick in May (“According to exegetes” down to “pro omnibus”) which are mistakenly relied on to “prove” that “pro multis” incorrectly translates (non-existent) “Aramaic texts”. On “pro multis”, the argument from Aramaic falls to pieces.

    Fr. Zerwick goes on to say:- “But because the word ‘multi’ in different ways in our Western languages does not exclude the whole, it can and does in fact connote it, where the context or subject matter suggests or requires it.

    So, at the Mass we hear “for many” but we do not hear “not everyone”. What Liturgiam authenticam insists is that the translation is not the correct place for explanation or catechesis.

    Finally, consider this: at those Masses during Holy Week where the Passion is read from the Gospels of St. Matthew and Mark, we hear the words “for many” in the narrative of the Last Supper; what conceivable theological objection can there be to hearing those same words in the Institution Narrative in the Eucharistic Liturgy which follows?

  10. Martin Keenan says:

    I seem to be taking rather a lot upon myself, but Gray’s points also deserve a response.

    Peter Jeffery, in the book Gray quoted from, writes passionately and learnedly, but he fails to come to grips with what Liturgiam authenticam (“LA”) is an instruction on the proper implementation of certain provisions of the Conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (“SC”, a document he cites once in the more than 100 pages of his critique, and then only in the context of the Neo-Vulgate).

    His objection to an excessively text-centred liturgy (quoted by Gray above) is not to be laid at the door of LA, which is purely ancillary to the Constitution. These are the facts Professor Jeffery overlooks, permitting him to criticise “Rome” instead of the Second Vatican Council (“the Council”):-

    (1) Liturgical texts are the repositories and the vectors of doctrine (SC n.33).
    (2) The Council approved a careful revision of the liturgical books to be conducted within strict limits (SC nn. 21, 23).
    (3) That revision was carried out between 1964 and 1969, and the result (so far as the Mass is concerned) is the Novus Ordo and the Missale Romanum (now in its third edition, 2002).
    (4) The Council stipulated that “the regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is on the Apostolic See and (as laws may determine) on the bishop” (SC n.22).
    (5) The Council, not Liturgiam authenticam, says that Latin is to be preserved within the Roman Rite (SC n. 36).
    (6) The Council, not Liturgiam authenticam, insisted that the substantial unity of the Roman Rite is to be maintained (SC n. 38).
    (7) The Council, not Liturgiam authenticam, prohibited unauthorised interference with the liturgical texts (SC n.22).

    Against this background, it is pointless to assert (as Gray does):-

    “There is nothing essentially superior about the Latin used in the Roman rite.”

    “Superior” in what sense? As literature? As a medium for conveying information? Gray’s remark is irrelevant to the status of the Latin text of the Mass within the Roman Rite. Latin is the inescapable starting point. Gray seems to want to erase the teaching of the Council, and replace the Novus Ordo and the Missale Romanum with some as yet uncomposed text. That’s not a translation issue.

    The question has been: do we translate the Latin or interpret and paraphrase it? Liturgiam authenticam said it must be translated exactly and integrally. The truth seems to be that those who resent the new translation are really objecting to the Novus Ordo.

  11. Lynn says:

    I think that Gray and David make excellent points! This whole debacle has got nothing to do with faithfulness, lets be honest. It is the agenda of conservatives who will damage the Church in the long run. I heard someone say that Rome has told the SA Bishops to stop promoting this new translation. Is that true? The timesonline exposed a pope who is autocratic and not listening to other Vatican officials the other day. That is the crux of this shambles, the abuse of power and refusal to listen by arch-conservatives which will lead the Church into a more and more irrelevant position in society and the lives of many people. Does Martin Keenan have nothing better to do than write conservative reactionary messages to everyone who offers some sense? The bottom line is that this is the agenda of the right and has nothing to do with doctrine, liturgy and faithfulness. The Mass is being used as a tool for creeping and unwelcome conservatism!

  12. As someone with a huge interest in the reading and the actual putting into practice (where I can) of some of the developments in liturgies (eastern /western/african) this for me is a crucial dialogue which I believe all Christians of sober mind should take joy in becoming part. While the English version of the Mass is indeed problematic for some, it must also be noted that even with South African indigenous languages all is not well.
    One can only hope that with the changes in the English grammar (if there will ever be any!) indigenous languages used for Eucharistic celebrations will also see their day in the language court. But what I find very disturbing as an outside of your church is the fact that your African bishops are also willing to be drawn into the English language issue when some of them do not even have good and intelligible command of the English grammar.

    This whole debate is just becoming a semantic exercise instead of dealing with and attempting to help non sophisticated minds understand how the liturgy helps bring us closer to the Creator and what our responses ought to be. Liturgical Justice as a liturgical element is a crucial one for me in the entire liturgical discourse. But I do think that all those who are giving comments have got valid points – something we all must learn from. I think it’s a give and take situation – and that God is not going to punish anyone for their views.

    Hi Martin! Talk to me sometime.

  13. Justin Hendricks says:

    I would like to ask supporters of the new translation about where the spirit of enthusiasm for this is with the laity? If this is such a good thing for the church why are priests and people not embracing the change with joy. In my parish and the one or two others I visir regularly there is absolutely no expression of joy about this – just a tired acceptance on the part of the priests and the people. And many Catholics are still using the old words. What a shame.

  14. David says:

    The Tablet has it in its headlines today.

    Vatican tells South Africans to stop using new Missal
    26 February 2009

    Catholics in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, who have sharply criticised new English translations for the Mass, which they became the first in the world to adopt in December, will no longer hear them used for the time being. The Vaticans Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) has ordered the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) to stop using the Vatican-approved texts. The bishops had believed that it was permissible to begin using them. Sources in the region told The Tablet that the CDW had written to SACBC president, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg, asking him to withdraw the new translations until the entire missal has been published. The SACBC has begun using new translations of the peoples responses during Mass, but there are still some less frequently used prayers that have not yet been finalised. But the source said: The bishops have decided to appeal Romes decision and want to press ahead.

  15. Martin Keenan says:

    It is unclear which of David’s points Lynn is applauding. It can’t be the “pro multis” point because that hangs on a misunderstanding of Aramaic (I don’t claim to understand Aramaic, but I can grasp what Fr. Zerwick said about it). I can’t see that my explanation of that error is either conservative or liberal.

    David’s only other point concerns “precious chalice” in EP1. His problem is that the words do not appear in the Gospels. It’s an interesting side topic, but it isn’t relevant to the question how to translate the Latin master text of the liturgy of the Mass.

    The words in the authentic Latin text, as revised in accordance with the mandate of the Second Vatican Council and published in 1970, read:-

    “accipiens et hunc prclarum calicem in sanctas ac venerabiles manus suas”

    There is solid documentary proof (in the Gelasian Sacramentary) that those specific words have appeared in the Eucharistic liturgy of the Catholic Church since at least the 6th century, and no, they do not appear in any of the four scriptural accounts of the Institution (Mt.26:26-29; Mk.14:22-25; Lk.22:17-20; 1Co.11:23-25).

    But then again, the Institution Narrative at Mass does not follow any single one of those texts, which do not agree among themselves anyway.

    The Greek word used in the synoptic Gospels and in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians is “pot?rion”, by the way, which means a small vessel especially (but not exclusively, see Mt.10:42) for wine-drinking.

    The question, however, is not how to translate the Greek word “pot?rion” in the New Testament, but how to translate the Latin words of the Mass.

    The former English version was “He took the cup”. You don’t need to know any Latin to see a lot is missing here. But it isn’t just that. In English, we dont normally drink wine out of a “cup”, and we can be sure that at the Last Supper there was no such object as we would call a “cup” on the table (nor, indeed, was there any such object as we would call a “table”, but that’s a different issue: Our Lord and the Apostles were reclining on couches).

    The new English version has restored all the missing words and replaced “cup” with “chalice”. What is the problem? Nobody will dispute that description of Our Lord’s hands. And what makes the cup “precious”, of course, is the Most Precious Blood it contains after the Consecration (see 1Pet.1:19).

    So we are left with the word “chalice” for “calix”. Yes, “calix” is the Latin for any type of drinking vessel but especially one for holding wine but “chalice” is the exact English rendition of “calix, calicis” (through French, “calice”). It has been in continuous use in English for 700 years. It is part of our Catholic vocabulary.

    Shakespeare used it in the sense of a goblet or drinking vessel (Macbeth, Act 1, scene 7, line 11) in a phrase which has passed into the language (a “poisoned chalice” is an offer that seems to confer a benefit, but which will damage the recipient’s reputation).

    If we look at other modern languages, we see the French for “cup” is “tasse”, but in the words of Institution at Mass they use “coupe” (which means “goblet”). In Italian, “cup” is “tazza”, but in the words of Institution they use “calice” (which also means a goblet); in German it’s “tasse”, but they use “becher” (compare English “beaker”); in Spanish it’s “taza”, but they use “calz” – which brings us back to “chalice”.

    So “chalice” isn’t wrong as a translation of “calicem”; it is more faithful to the English Catholic liturgical tradition than “cup”; it doesn’t have the inappropriate connotations that “cup” has; and it is precisely matched in the Spanish and Italian translations of the Mass.

    What is the problem with it?

  16. Martin Keenan says:

    Dear Fano,

    It’s good to see you are still following “The Southern Cross”. Who made you a prelate!? And why so modest, or is a mitre on the way?


  17. Thabo Tsiu says:

    Justin Hendricks’ comment says it all. How can the people embrace the change if their priest does not embrace it. I think the priests should lead the people in adapting to the new order of mass, and not, display their disaproval of the change openly.This is confusing to the people.

    Those who honestly believe that they are experts on the subject, and feel that the changes are a mistake ,should rather make represantations to the ICEL. What good will be served by mobilising the people against a constituted institution of the Universal Church.

    The Southern Cross Editorial team should really reconsider what their role is as a Catholic Newspaper. They could have taken the role of informing us and promoting understanding of the new order of mass. How can a Catholic Newspaper position itself to be in opposition to the decisions of the institutions of the church.

    We should all pray for those who are tasked with providing leadership in the Church for Divine guidance in executing their tasks. We should also pray for love, and respect amoung the people of GOD. Even when we disagree, we really should show respect, especially for the ordained leaders of the church.

  18. Justin Hendricks says:

    Thabo, the priests are doing the best they can IMHO. But they have been given the impossible to do by the bishops. The bishops are at fault for not thinking properly about how the mass affects people. The new mass translation is bad English. As I understand it the rules of translation changed as the cardinal says but the result does not seem good. I agree that people should show respect but that applies to bishops as well. Its no good insulting the lay people by calling them ignorant and telling them to keep in their place. That ship has long ago sailed. This argument about the English mass is a legalistic mess. Bishops should earn respect by keeping the good of their people at heart not legalistic mentalities that heap burdens on their shoulders yet do nothing to help like the pharasees.

  19. Dear Martin

    Good to hear from you. You surprise me as One who has been out of planet Cape Town if not South African one regarding the latest on Msgr Fano Ngcobo. Or should I take it that you are also victim of your Archdiocesan injuction: ‘. . . keep away from him (Fr Fano) or else . . .

    As an humble servant of scholarship on church matters, I would have expected you to stay connected, at least via the modern technology such as internet and others, on the latest development on Msgr Fano Ngcobo who now is priest in the Reformed Catholic Church.

    Oh yes, the mitre is on. Its not because I wanted it but because the outside world has seen my contribution. In fact, I am sending the online invitation!

    I do value your contribution on matters liturgical. You will recall in the good-old-days in Paarl parish how we will explore together
    some aspects of church worship.

    As bishop-elect of the Reformed Catholic Church for South Africa – I am entering this discussion with open heart and mind and I believe that out of this dialogue myself and clergy of the Reformed Catholic Church here at home – will be able to learn from the dialogue and pave the way forward for a better church and community.

    Finally, I have discovered that one is always a student on matters liturgical hence the right and wrong have no place. I strongly encourage the discussion as long as we don’t get on each other’s throats.

  20. Michael says:

    David wrote:
    In this passage the term many is a Hebrew word that means for everyone, since there was no Hebrew word for all.

    That is a falsehood. Both Hebrew and Aramaic have separate words for “many” and “all”.

  21. Michael says:

    David wrote:
    ‘Should the word-for-word formal equivalence imperative of Liturgiam Authenticam now be allowed to supersede orthodox Catholic doctrine as expressed in English? The English word many does and cannot not mean everyone.’

    Rendering “pro multis” as “for all” fails both as a formal equivalence and as a dynamic equivalence translation. Even advocates of dynamic equivalence use the equivalent of “for many”, not “for all”. See, for example, the New Living Translation of Matthew 26:28 at http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/05discoverthenlt/ssresults.asp?txtSearchString=Matthew%2026:28

    Furthermore, in the Roman Catechism, the Church teaches that Jesus deliberately did not say “for all”, and chose to say “for many”, to signify those that would be saved. Changing our Lord’s words from “for many” to “for all” changes the meaning of what He said.

  22. Lynn says:

    After reading the correspondence and looking online it is clear that the Bishops in SA have messed up. They should apologise and we should return to the old translation. To my utter surprise I see (and have heard) that they are appealing Rome’s instruction to withdraw this translation. I guess that they are trying to ‘save face’? That is a further insult to us, the laity. Instead of appealing and trying to justify their mess why can they not just apologise and let us all revert back. Or is this the way the Catholic Church continues to operate? Cover-ups? Have we not learnt anything from the sex-abuse in the US? If the Bishops who are behind this translation and so-called appeal can not simply just apologise to us and let us revert back they haven’t got much integrity. Perhaps the best would be for them to resign. They are not the people we want in leadership.

  23. Martin Keenan says:

    Dear Fano,

    No, I was not aware of any Archdiocesan injunction to shun you – in fact, I continue to pray that you will one day be restored to communion with the Catholic Church.

    I can’t say I agree with you that in liturgical matters there is no wrong and right, nor is that what the Second Vatican Council teaches. Some parts of the liturgy not even the Pope and an Ecumenical Council can change (SC n.21).

    The new translation requires patience, above all. It slows down the Mass and makes us concentrate more on what we are saying. In some places it is still a surprise – and often a joy.

    I am especially grateful for the new invocation to the table of the Lord: “Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb” which is straight from the Book of Revelation.

    When the priest said (old ICEL) Happy are those who are called to His supper, it is unlikely that many listeners recalled the wedding feast of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation (Rev.19:9). It is more likely that various parables of wedding feasts came to mind: see Mt.22:1-14; Lk.14:15-24. These other references are not problematic, but they are not the source of the prayer, and interweaving the Churchs Liturgy with the Heavenly Liturgy in the Book of Revelation is a major liturgical theme, second only to the Last Supper itself.

    What is most likely is that communicants saw it as a description of themselves (it was not unknown for priests to say Happy are you (etc). The explicit supper of the Lamb now presents the dual focus on the here-and-now, and on the banquet of which this is a foretaste (solidly Conciliar: SC, n.8).

  24. Rosemary Gravenor says:

    I asked the question elsewhere: Why are we English speakers in Southern Africa the guinea pigs? Not receiving an answer, it would be interesting to hear our Cardinals response to Catholic Sensibilitys statement make a decision and then fabricate a theology to match!?

    The liturgy is Sacred not because it is for Gods benefit in any way but because it is for human benefit post incarnation! The language of the People of God IS the priority (post VII) but those with power dont see it as such. I see the wordy explanations of those presumed knowledgeable to be smoke-screens behind which hides hidden agendas which we are being encouraged not to question.

    There can be no reasonable or fruitful discussion because of these agendas and opinions which do not take into account the voice of the faithful. The fuss is adequate proof that many faithful know at some deep level decisions ultimately emanate from the few. Bishop Risi confirmed clearly recently who can authorise change and who cannot.

    Few are arguing that change is not necessary but no authority(sic) previously took seriously the value the faithful give to our Eucharistic celebration. Many faithful do not perceive with their hearts any enhancements made by the changes so far and want their voices to be heard. There will be many pray, pay and obey Catholics who just quite rightly abhor the conflict. They, sadly, are the ones who need what John Paul II called the new evangelisation in order to encounter and enter into relationship with the risen Lord!

    Our liturgy has to be rooted in the person of Christ and his legacy the Gospels first and then the rest of the New Testament. Tradition is never cast in concrete and with liturgy especially, inculturation must be a major concern. This great legacy, irrespective of the base language used for translations (Jesus language: Aramaic/Hebrew; or Greek, or Latin), must be meaningful to the society contextually. We need to pray what we mean, without semantics. We need to pray with our hearts, as well as our minds and bodies. How are we to achieve proper dispositions and be attuned to [our] voices if the language is imposed and not invigorating and meaningful? (Refer Martin Keenans response: 22/2 above).

    The faithful would not care about the base language and its literal equivalence (or whatever) if the end result expressed a personal and communal need for God, and gratitude to our God who wants union and communion with us.

    The litmus test for legitimate authority given to the Church is leaderships capacity to serve, guide, listen to and hear the voice of the People of God crying out for justice (and precisely now liturgical justice).

    One thing I have learnt from all this is that there are many documents… quoted to uphold some opinion or view or interpretation none of these documents or outcomes being perfect (and never will be). Are we not sick to death of hearing those that uphold power over the faithful desperately quoting from these documents? The natural response is then to quote back from other documents. ( Balls bouncing from one court to another). The committees and commissions and congregations and conferences have all messed up in some way before. We have been wandering in the desert of poor liturgy for forty years to learn that liturgy has been a ball that authority has been playing to the neglect of the spiritual well-being of the People of God.

    Do we not need to focus on the Divine Son of God who alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life of our liturgy?

    It must be clearly stated that by virtue of our baptism we are qualified to criticise, both conservatives and liberals, anything and everything that keeps us from coming close to Jesus Christ! If we are for Christ we know that nothing can be against us.

    The Southern Cross is not promoting anything neither any false teaching or proposed true teaching from any side of the battleground. Thank goodness it is not promoting any impositions on the faithful either! It is doing what all good newspapers do, reporting the mood of the People of God, their just or unjust anger! THERE IS A PROBLEM and they are rightly reporting it. This problem wont go away even if the Church had the power to muzzle the Southern Cross.

    The institutional Church does not have sole access to the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Who directs the course of the wind?

    There is much more that could be challenged! The time is perhaps right for the introduction of a movement like Voice of the Faithful into our region.

  25. Nicholas Mitchell says:

    I find it most ironic that, in my experience, those attacking the newer translations in favour of the older versions, are likely the ones most wedded to a “hermeneutic of rupture” that views Vatican II as a kind of superdogma that erases anything “pre-conciliar”. Were they so accommodating and understanding of Catholics distressed by the liturgical revolution of the 1960s and 1970s? Were they in favour of retaining the older rites for those attached to them, as an option? Were they in favour of the 1984 Indult Quattor Abhinc Annos that permitted bishops to allow the older Mass, or Pope John Paul’s call for generosity in permitting the older Mass, in 1988? Are they pleased that the current Holy Father has granted even broader access to this Mass?

    I doubt it. They probably view such things as “regressive” and that those attached to such forms are troglodytes who should be forced into “submission” to the new rites, whatever their preferences.

    And yet they complain about being disturbed in their liturgies by translations with which they are not familiar – a change trivial to that endured by Catholics 40 years ago. Of course, these things take time to settle – people will be uncomfortable with the newer responses. In time, they will get used to it – as people did 40 years ago.

    The mind of the Church is clearly that vernacular translations need to be more accurate and faithful to the official Latin text. If the critics see the “older” texts as cast in stone, why were not earlier liturgies similarly cast in stone? No, these things are capable of improvement. We may personally prefer the older translations – often, because that is what we are used to – we may think them more “natural” in their English, but they are less accurate. And accuracy matters. Contrary to what some people seem to believe, the Church is not a democracy, it is not a free-for-all, by all means express your concerns, fears, desires, reservations to the hierarchy, but do not think that the Holy See has to conform to your wishes. Or your view of Vatican II as a kind of revolution that “liberates” you to do as you please, or suits ones fallen nature or the values and mores of this godless post-Christian secular age. I think people are so enamoured of a view of the post-Vatican II age as one where the Church’s authority and disciplines are irrelevant, where adherence to Church teaching is “oh so pre-Vatican II” and where the whole trend must be to conform to not just Protestant values, but the secular culture, that anything that violates or SEEMS to violate their view of what is good for the Church is reacted to in an emotional and hysterical manner.

    But, in my view, the newer translations are VERY “Vatican II” – read Sacrosanctum Concilium, and show me how the 1973 (?) ICEL translations and the general anything-goes-but-Tradition culture of the critics fits in with it.

    Let’s “move with the times” – with Pope Benedict XVI – and leave the Swinging Sixties behind us. (Sorry, I had to say that – the concept of the revolutionaries of that sad era being the conservatives of today, is delicious in its irony).

    God bless.

  26. Lynette says:

    Our bishops (it seems) are denying that the English-speaking Church in SA has been thrown into a mess with the implementation of this ghastly mass text. Why else would they appeal Rome? They, sadly, are deluding themselves. They have said that the problem is not the text but the implementation date. That is untrue. The texts have caused major division and have, on the whole, not been well received. They have made an appeal to Rome asking that we continue to use them after Rome has said stop (funny how blind obedience doesn’t work both ways!). We hope Rome has the courage to say no. It has been a disaster. Worst of all is the fact that the bishops just will not listen to us – two of them have written public statements negating any concerns people have expressed. They believe that issues like inclusive language are not important, that the laity (and most of the clergy!) are incompetent to comment on the bad English (only experts can do that according to the Cardinal but we are the ones who have to use this horrible text. Why was an English expert not part of the translation board I wonder? If there was he should be fired!) I hope that the rest of the English Church is following this. Are these the poor shepherds that the prophet Ezekiel speaks out against? People will talk with their feet, I know some who have already. South Africans have been docile up to now, this is perhaps a turning point. We will no longer subscribe to blind obedience. Our Cardinal and Bishops have lost credibility and I cannot respect these men anymore if they treat the laity with absolute contempt. Might we have to revert to other peaceful means of protest to make them hear us? Lets stop putting money into the Lent collection as I see that the money goes to the bishops. If they will not listen we need to find other ways of making our incompetent and lone voices heard, might closing our wallets be the only means?

  27. Rosemary Gravenor says:


    I have no idea how much access you have to international catholic media or movements, but you are expressing almost exactly things which caused the birth of the movement Voice of the Faithful in the States. It began as a result of the abuse scandal but they perceived that something needed to be done to hold church authorities accountable for what they did that affected the faithful.

    I presume that you are now reacting to the 4th March communiqu sent out by SACBC advising that the Vatican had addressed a letter to them asking them to (in short) halt the new English Text of the Roman Missal. This in a sense is a victory for us dissidents who have protested the way it has been handled as well as some changes to English texts.

    I smell a rat because:
    1) I had read somewhere of a letter that Cardinal Arinze (who heads the dept with power in this matter) had sent to all English Bishops Conferences asking them not to implement any changes till all changes had been finalised. (You recall this had been the first phase). If they omitted to send the letter to our SACBC then why was Cardinal Napier not aware of this instruction as he is supposedly a member of the ICEL which is responsible for producing the revised English text?

    2) If they received the letter they ignored the request it contained and thus I asked my question about guinea pigs (see my previous response) as the England, Wales, Scotland diocese have not moved on this and I believe only now the US are taking some tentative steps towards implementation.

    3) The communiqu comes after the hue and cry from the faithful, yet it states that the proposed text changes are not under question! They have merely been asked to wait until the all English-speaking churches are ready to implement. This could still be years!!

    4) It is not clear, but it seems that the SACBC took the required authority (recognitio) to implement changes wrongly as they were only being given authority for the purposes of: Catechesis of the people and the preparation of music for the Rite. They apologise for the confusion but with no clear admission that they messed up. I am hoping that the Vatican will say no and that they will have to withdraw the changes already implemented.

    I said elsewhere that I do not believe that no changes be implemented and I personally want to see certain changes very badly, but this debacle proves that the faithful, as you so rightly emphasise, are overlooked when it comes to decisions that affect them even ones that affect them deeply.

    So Babel continues for the time being!

  28. Steve says:

    Martin Keenan seems to have distorted views and would rather side with the bishops, even if their views were found to be wrong.

    A person who fears excommunication and would seek fault in all things transparent, it would seem. The Church is not Benedict the 16th, but WE make up the Body of Christ, which is the Church on earth.

    People like Martin needs to remember this. The Pope, as vicar of Christ indeed, were given keys to guide us, not to abuse and lock in the Holy Spirit and make it his own divine guide.

    On matters of the Novus Ordo, the church needed to be consulted. Catholics whether attentive during mass or not, will not be less catholic because they do not use the most literate word? For it is what we believe in and our Christian faith and moral standing that makes us followers of Christ.

    In saying so, we must engage in a manner that is not offensive or harmful towards the bishops, laity or general clergy. Martin is one of those people who like to see his responses take precedence and dominate the forums. So you might be a former priest, or still is or might just know alot, but dont disregard the rights of the faithful (church) who is within their marginal rights (As stated in RS) to view their concerns.

    Wilfred Cardinal Napier`s opinions does not explain much, its like many priests who deliver a homily, word for word from the Gospel, what practical teaching does this serve on the congregation? This is what he was doing.

    The faithful needs practical and coherent lessons, one that will aid our faith, not clever dormant words that need much thinking, leading us astray.

  29. Martin Keenan says:

    Don’t personalise the issues, Steve.

  30. Fr Sean Collins CSsR says:

    Could you help me to pass on word to Mr Martin Keenan that a Parish Mission is taking place in the Christ the King Parish Worcester from 4- 10 May 6hoo and 9hoo Mass in the mornings and 19h00 sermons and Benediction. The Missioners are trying to locate all Catholics in the area to invite them to make a once-a-decade Parish Mission. Fr Sean Collins CSsR : missioner

  31. Martin Keenan says:

    Dear Fr. Collins,

    I have only today read your post above (long after the mission in Worcester terminated), and I have to point out that there was an error in “The Southern Cross” describing me as writing “from Worcester”. I have never been resident in Worcester. My parish has been Paarl since 1993.

    From my knowledge of Paarl parish I can assure you that many parishioners there still remember with gratitude the mission which you conducted there in (I think) 1990 or 1991 (before I came to live in the parish).

    You and I are on opposite sides of the liturgical translation debate, and on occasion I have responded to your posts with a certain brutality which, nevertheless, is confined to the quality of your arguments and is not in any way directed at you personally, or at your sacred ministry or your particular vocation as a Redemptorist missioner.

    If I had been a parishioner in Worcester, and if I had been in South Africa at the relevant time (I am currently half-way through a 4 month trip through South East Asia), I would have gratefully sought you out to assure you of my good wishes towards you, and to solicit your prayers for me.

    With very kind regards and with sincere appreciation for your inquiry,

    Martin Keenan

  32. David says:

    @Cardinal Napier wrote:
    “By contrast, today conferences have suitably qualified lay people, religious and priests serving on liturgy commissions, and even parishes have liturgy committees. So the possibilities of wider and more meaningful consultation are infinitely better. As a direct result of this latter fact, when ICEL consults its member conferences, the responses they receive include a far wider range of views. Therefore it is not accurate or true to say that the bishops decide alone, or without hearing what the laity have to say.”

    I don’t know where the cardinal gets his information from. I don’t know of any lay person who serves on the SACBC liturgy commission. The commission has never consulted or solicited comments from the laity or parishes directly about the new translation. If they had, the bishops wouldn’t have been caught by surprise.

    The bishops as a whole never consulted English language experts, liturgists (diocesan or academic) before deciding whether to accept the new translation or not. They were guided by the SACBC’s own Liturgy Commission which consists of Bishop Risi, Sr Jordana Maher and a ad hoc handful of other religious and priests, that’s all. Not much of a broadly consultative body.

    And In my experience dioceses and parishes in South Africa have far fewer liturgical commissions and committees than they had in the 1970s. My own diocese hasn’t had a diocesan liturgy commission for about 20 years!!

  33. YMO Erasmus says:

    wow guys, I wonder if the Holy Spirit was consulted on this whole process, I think the HS might have been ‘out of town’ when the changes were made;p

    I just wish that the Bishops and priests would preach the word of Jesus Christ to his people intead of worring about symantics.

    Really, Bishop Napier, I think Jesus might sit next to you and say ‘Wifred, whats the fuss, just preach my word and don’t worry to much about anything else’

    Keep the symanitcs at Univesity and Preach the Lords word and live the word with the people of God, its as simple as that:)

  34. YMO Erasmus says:

    Oops, spell check has made me lazy…sorry about the spelling errors above…I asked St Jude to find my brain, but I think he’s still looking for it:)

  35. Joe says:

    I find the patronizing and bullying tone of Card. Napier and Mr Keenan very objectionable. It is laughable that the latter defend the translation of calix as chalice on the basis that Shakespeare uses the word chalice in the sense of cup. In modern English chalice does not mean cup but a golden vessel. So to use chalice to translate calix in the Roman Canon is a MISTRANSLATION. The entire farce that Liturgiam Authenticam has spawned is pervaded from beginnng to end with such literalist mistranslations. Card. Napier is wrong to say the first ICEL translations were hasty, shoddy work, since the new ones now proposed bear all the marks of haste and incompetence.

  1. February 26, 2009

    […] Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban, South Africa, member of ICEL’s episcopal board, wades into the liturgy mess he authorized this past Advent in his country. In his opinion piece, he offers an impassioned […]

  2. March 4, 2009

    […] am enormously saddened by Cardinal Wilfrid Napiers article in The Southern Cross of February 18-24 regarding the changes to the liturgical […]