Back in 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments issued a document called Liturgiam Authenticam (Authentic Liturgy). The basic point of this document is that vernacular translations should be as literal as possible from the official Latin texts. The Catholic Church has always been concerned with expressing her doctrines as precisely as possible, and She has always had great concern that language be exact. Also, the purpose of liturgy is to pray together as a Church, not just locally, but in all places, and even across time.
That is one of the arguments for having a universal language of the Church, or at least of the Rite. When Byzantine Catholics pray the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, they pray a liturgy that has been used since the earliest centuries of the Church. Since the Mass is mystically timeless, the timelessness of liturgy itself symbolizes the fact that the Mass touches on eternity.
This can be understood also in the context of the Divine Office: one person praying the office is still, mystically, praying with the entire Church, still praying the same exact prayers (more or less) as everyone else.
So, both for purpose of doctrinal clarity and symbolic unity, the mass in the vernacular must be in accordance with the Latin original, and must neither add nor subtract from that text.
Here are some key points:
76. In implementing the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, it has become
evident from the mature experience of the nearly four decades of the liturgical
renewal that have elapsed since the Council that the need for translations of
liturgical texts – at least as regards the major languages — is
experienced not only by the Bishops in governing the particular Churches, but
also by the Apostolic See, for the effective exercise of her universal
solicitude for the Christian faithful in the City of Rome and throughout the
world. Indeed, in the Diocese of Rome, especially in many of the Churches and
institutes of the City that depend in some way on the Diocese or the organs of
the Holy See, as well as in the activity of the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia
and the Pontifical Representations, the major languages are widely and
frequently employed even in liturgical celebrations. For this reason, it has
been determined that in the future, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the
Discipline of the Sacraments will be involved more directly in the preparation
of the translations into these major languages.
In other words, “the local bishops’ conferences and translation organizations have been doing uch a rotten job of it that the CDW has to step in and take over.”
From the press release:
Translations must be freed from exaggerated dependence on modern modes of
expression and in general from psychologizing language
30. In many languages there exist nouns and pronouns denoting both genders, masculine and feminine, together in a single term. The insistence that such a usage should be changed is not necessarily to be regarded as the effect or the manifestation of an authentic development of the language as such. Even if it may be necessary by means of catechesis to ensure that such words continue to be understood in the “inclusive” sense just described, it may not be possible to employ different words in the translations themselves without detriment to the precise intended meaning of the text, the correlation of its various words or expressions, or its aesthetic qualities. When the original text, for example, employs a single term in expressing the interplay between the individual and the universality and unity of the human family or community (such as the Hebrew word ‘adam, the Greek anthropos, or the Latin homo), this property of the language of the original text should be maintained in the translation. Just as has occurred at other times in history, the Church herself must freely decide upon the system of language that will serve her doctrinal mission most effectively, and should not be subject to externally imposed linguistic norms that are detrimental to that mission.
It goes on to say that gender terms that refer to the Persons of the Trinity, to angels and demons, and should be retained, as well as the reference to the Church as feminine.
On “big words”
53. Whenever a particular Latin term has a rich meaning that is difficult to render into a modern language (such as the words munus, famulus, consubstantialis, propitius, etc.) various solutions may be employed in the translations, whether the term be translated by a single vernacular word or by several, or by the coining of a new word, or perhaps by the adaptation or transcription of the same term into a language or alphabet that is different from the original text (cf. above, n. 21), or the use of an already existing word which may bear various meanings.37
A good example of this is “genitori, genitoque” in Tantum Ergo (which is, technically, a liturgical text):
laus et jubilatio
sit, et benedictio
procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio. Amen.
Usually, it’s translated as something akin to
“Glory, honor, adoration
Let us sing with one accord
Praised be God, Almighty Father,
Praised be Christ, His Son, Our Lord,
Praised by God the Holy Spirit,
Triune Godhead, be Adored.”
Pretty enough, and mostly “OK,” but missing some of the profound theological nuance that St. Thomas wrapped into his adaptation of Rev 5:13.
Because it’s literally, “To the begetter and the begotten, may there be [sit] praise et jubilation,
health, honor, and also strength and blessing. Likewise [compar] give jubilation to the one who proceeds from them both.”
Kind of a good example of both how the poetry of different titles of God is lost in an overly simplified translation, *and* how theological significance is lost.
Also, it’s interesting that Liturgiam Authenticam calls for the coinage of new words if an adequate word cannot be found. Nice thing about English, though, is that the British Isles have been Catholic sing long before English was a language, so many English words come *from* Latin and *from* Catholicism. We already have ’em, but people like Bishop Trautman keep insisting that laity are too dumb to know what words like “chalice” and “consubstantial” mean (uh, if otherwise intellectually capable adults don’t know what “consubstantial” means, then they don’t know what “transubstantial” means, and they shouldn’t be coming to Communion).
Paragraph 65 specifically calls for the Creed, which is the expression of faith of every individual Catholic, to be singular, not plural.
Paragraph 74 notes that care should be taken to make sure that the parts the people memorize remain consistent, and should not be changed without grave reason. However, since the translations were already screwed up, any changes that needed to be made should be made quickly and all at once.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is “go to the source,” as commentators tend to add things and confuse what is their opinion with the text. So, I was convinced for the past 7 years of things Liturgiam Authenticam “called for” that it did not, explicitly, call for. However, since it *does* call for a more accurate translation, these are the key points that many commentators (including, I believe, Cardinal Arinze himself) identified:
1. et cum spiritu tuo is “And with your spirit,” not “And also with you.” It strikes me that in 40 years that have seen the priesthood gutted by scandals and laicizations and falling vocations, the laity in many countries have not been praying for their priests’ souls in the way the Church asks them to.
2. pro vobis et pro multis: “for you and for many.” Christ, speaking through the priest, echoes His words to the Apostles. “For you and for all” used in many modern translations suggests Universalism. This is noted as being an important point, since it involves the actual consecration of the Eucharist.
3. consubstantialem patri has been rendered “one in being with the Father.” This is, while in some sense literal and explicatory, somewhat inadequate to the meaning of “consubstantial,” which really means “sharing the same substance,” but that implies understanding of “substance” and of “the divine substance.” All of that should be taught in CCD, so “consubstantial” is short hand for a lot of theological complexity. “One in being” is oversimplified, inadequate and slightly inaccurate.
4. incarnàtus is cut from Et incarnatus est de Spìritu Sancto.
5. mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa should be “my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault,” not “my own fault.”
One that commentators do not normally discuss, but I take note of, is this one:
hóstiam puram, hóstiam sanctam, hóstiam immaculátam
Now, in the Traditional Latin Mass, that’s one of the parts that usually whispered by the priest, so most people never hear it. But if you hear the Novus Ordo in Latin (and follow along), it can be one of the most powerful and poetic moments in the Mass.
But, in the translation that’s been in use, it’s rendered, “this holy and perfect sacrifice.”
Again, these points are not *explicitly* raised in Liturgiam Authenticam, but they’re clearly the kind of thing it means in calling for a literal translation from Latin, not significantly adding or subtracting words or “trying to reinterpret,” etc. And they are specifically referred to in many commentaries.
Paragraphs 131-132 set a five-year deadline for the new translations to take effect, which certain US bishops balked at, insisting that a new translation would take *years* to accomplish.
Years ago, before this document came out, I found websites omparing the texts of the different Masses. Here is the rendering of the 1975 Missal in both Latin and the previously approved English translation. Here is one text of the traditional Latin Mass. I found the differences between the 1975 Missal in English and the 1975 Missal in Latin to be far greater than the differences between the 1975 Missal in Latin and the 1962 Missal in Latin. Here’s an article by someone who made a similar discovery.
One thing striking about all this debate is that one can pick up any edition of the 1962 Missal and see an English translation of the Mass which is literal, poetic and theologically appropriate.
Similarly, and very ironically, Ignatius (used to?) put out a pamphlet for the Novus Ordo in Latin. Interestingly, rather than using the official English text, it used its own translation which was, again, literal, poetic and theologically appropriate. We used to attend a Novus Ordo Latin Mass which used this booklet, and Mary used to ask, “Why can’t they just approve the translation in this book?”
Even *more* striking is that many of the controversial texts (e.g., the Creed, or the response “and with your spirit”) are the same across many different Rites of the Church, if not all of them. And when looks at the official, approved English translations for the Byzantines, or the Maronites, one sees these phrases rendered perfectly.
So, again, why not just use what they use?
Well, Mahony, Trautman and company reacted in protest, insisted it would take at least 10 years to compose, approve and implement a new translation, and kept raising their usual objections to following the Pope.
In response, the CDW established a commision, Vox Clara, to oversee the translations in contentious languages like English, saying that, if the international committees and local episcopal conferences insisted on stalling and insisted on improper translations, then the CDW would just present its own translation and mandate it.
So, in 2004, both Vox Clara and the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) offered draft translations. While ICEL’s 2004 draft had shown a “good start,” it still wasn’t quite perfect when compared with the high expectations raised in 2001.
Even the National Catholic Reporter was saying, as early as 2004, that “conservatives” had won the “bruising liturgy wars,” but, having read the draft translations. However, as various drafts have been written and issued over the past several years, and batted between the USCCB, ICEL and Vox Clara, it’s gotten rather discouraging.
Well, things have gotten simultaneously a lot more *encouraging* and confusing:
A translation has been approved by the Holy See and is now available on the USCCB’s website. The cover letter from Cardinal Arinze to Cardinal George notes that the text is considered “binding.” I’ve read the complete text, and it brought me to tears of joy. I carefully examined it, word for word, and it is flawless and beautiful! The Vatican has not compromised at all.
However, in a mail-in ballot following their June 2008 meeting, the US Bishops already *rejected* the translation. Here is an article quoting many bishops who think we’re dumb (OK, most Americans are dumb, especially when it comes to their own language, but nobody rises to low expectations).
So, in other words, in June, the Bishops voted “inconclusively” and opted for a mail-in vote to follow up. Subsequent to that, Cardinal Arinze, now completely ticked, as indicated in a 2006 statement, wrote them a letter saying, “This is binding. So get over yourselves and accept it.” Then the bishops’ simultaneous mail-in vote came back against the Vatican.
So, the USCCB officially releases the new translation on its website , and kind of ignores its own vote against it (note how there’s a “roundup” about the June meeting, no mention of the July mail-in vote, and then the July 25 release on the Vatican’s mandating the new translation).
Supposedly, the USCCB voted against only part of a process. However, the text above is quite clearly the whole Ordinary of the Mass. Of course, there are the Collects, the Lectionary, etc., but the document sent to the USCCB is basically “the Mass, “and I really fail to see how the USCCB’s negative vote matters a darn, except to further indicate the intention of people like Trautman and Mahony to force a Schism.