In this blog, surfers, I will connect the dots and show that the US Bishops chose to make the word changes in the new Roman Missal and could have made no change at all. This is a follow up from a previous blog post, if you are interested.
The story begins with Liturgiam Authenticam, an instruction
from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, as approved by John Paul II The Great. The crux of the instruction involves Latin to English (or any language spoken by the faithful) translation, including how to choose between formal versus dynamic equivalence.
I hear what you are saying… blah… blah… blah. All this nerdy translation talk is hard to make sense of, so let me break it down for you. The instructions make it clear to keep it simple and don’t change the words unless there is a really good reason. Seems like an easy instruction to follow; a “no-brainer,” so to speak.
In 2001 all Bishops across the world were charged with completing a review and providing recommendations for Missal translation. This requirement was part of Liturgiam Authenticam.
132. Within five years from the date of publication of this Instruction, the Presidents of the Conferences of Bishops and the Supreme Moderators of religious families and institutes equivalent in law are bound to present to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments an integral plan regarding the liturgical books translated into the vernacular in their respective territories or institutes. – Liturgiam Authenticam March 28, 2001
Under the general principles of Liturgiam Authenticam is a guidance for the Bishops to use in evaluating a translation. The question is, did the Bishops use these guidance principles in changing the translation of the New Roman Missal? The text changes are here and the general principle says:
25. So that the content of the original texts may be evident and comprehensible even to the faithful who lack any special intellectual formation, the translations should be characterized by a kind of language which is easily understandable, yet which at the same time preserves these texts’ dignity, beauty, and doctrinal precision. Cf. Pope Paul VI, Address to translators of liturgical texts into vernacular languages, 10 November 1965: AAS 57 (1965) 968; Congr. for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Instr. Varietates legitimae, n. 53: AAS 87 (1995) 308. – Liturgiam Authenticam March 28, 2001
This is the same guiding principle used by the leaders of Vatican II when they translated the 1st Edition Missal. Dynamic equivalence allows for translations to keep the original content and stay comprehensible. Formal equivalence is a word-for-word translation, even if the word makes no sense in the translation.
What? More blah… blah… blah… Let me give you an example. Ask yourself; do I understand the word consubstantial? Do those faithful Catholic Church sitting in the pews on Sundays grasp the meaning of the word consubstantial? Using this word appears to contradict the “keep it simple” guiding principle of the instruction.
The Vatical II leaders appear to have used dynamic equivalence (begotten, not made, one in being with the Father), while the Bishops today seem to have opted for a formal equivalence model.
So, here is another question for you. Why do the Bishops feel the need to make a change in translation and translation method? There is a reason. You don’t go through all of this trouble without a reason.
Here is another example from Liturgiam Authenticam. Under the manner of preparing a translation we find the following instruction:
74. A certain stability ought to be maintained whenever possible in successive editions prepared in modern languages. The parts that are to be committed to memory by the people, especially if they are sung, are to be changed only for a just and considerable reason.
– Liturgiam Authenticam March 28, 2001>
Clearly the Nicene Creed is one of the parts that are to be committed to memory by the people. The Bishops clearly felt it was not possible to keep the previous translation. They clearly had a just and considerable reason for the changes in the 3rd Edition Roman Missal. Think about this as you are sitting in the pews during and tripping over the new words to those familiar prayers.
The instructions make it clear to keep it simple and don’t change the words unless there is a really good reason. Speaking of a good reason, perhaps Liturgiam Authenticum can give us a clue to what a good reason might be?
43. Modes of speech by which heavenly realities and actions are depicted in human form, or designated by means of limited, concrete terminology– as happens quite frequently in biblical language (i.e., anthropomorphisms) – often maintain their full force only if translated somewhat literally, as in the case of words in the Nova Vulgata Editio such as ambulare, brachium, digitus, manus, or vultus [Dei], as well as caro, cornu, os, semen, and visitare. Thus it is best that such terms not be explained or interpreted by more abstract or general vernacular expressions… It should be borne in mind that a literal translation of terms which may initially sound odd in a vernacular language may for this very reason provoke inquisitiveness in the hearer and provide an occasion for catechesis. – Liturgiam Authenticam March 28, 2001
Everybody I know asks the question; what does consubstantial mean? The question is asked in a more agitated than inquisitive manner. Did the Bishops want to use this new translation as an occasion for catechesis? What is the lesson they are trying to teach? Did you receive adequate catechesis prior to these changes being made? Even today are you receiving the catechesis for the meaning behind these changes? Is that your final answer? Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Back in the early 300’s when this whole consubstantial mess was settled, and it was a bloody mess, Arius learned the lesson. It cost him his life, and I pray that the lesson you receive is simply informative. Is the Arius lesson the lesson we, the Church, need to learn? Seems rather angry, and I will argue that the US Bishops are angry.
I believe that the US Bishops have opinions much like The Catholic Knight whose blog who proudly showed a countdown calendar to the new Roman Missal on his blog. The Catholic Knight is angry and he feels that part of the Church is chipping away at the traditions that are sacred to him. He would like to give the boot to that part of the Church who he feels have betrayed him. I can only say that you can’t choose your relatives.
Are the Bishops sending that same message to the Church with the changes to the Missal? If you don’t want to end up like Arius, you better get behind the changes or get out? Surfers, you look over the data and then you decide. Tell me about your struggles with the Missal changes and what you think.