5 June 2011

The 1992 Translation of the Missal

Lord, Holy Father, Almighty Eternal God. I wrote recently about the problems with the old, 1970s, translation of the Mass. Indeed, the problems with that translation were widely recognised very soon after it came into use. I will quote the words (2002) of a man who cannot be accused of any sympathy with Traditionalism: Archbishop Rembert Weakland, a "Spirit of Vatican II" prelate whose antipathy to Joseph Ratzinger's views on Liturgy were public and were very vigorously expressed. (His Wikipedia entry gives information about his financial, sexual, and architectural misdemeanours). "This restorationist movement [i.e. the views of Joseph Ratzinger, Aidan Nichols, and others] should be distinguished from the ongoing search for liturgical renewal according to the norms already established. Liturgists who were involved in the first liturgical reforms after the council consider that the renewal was halted in midstream and agree that many valid criticisms of the present state of affairs are in order. For example, in citing the low quality of some translations, they call for a more elevated and poetic style ...".

Accordingly, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) set to work in the 1980s and, in 1992, submitted a new translation of the Missal. It was generally agreed that it represented a considerable improvement upon its predecessor. But there was now a new kid now on the linguistic block. In just one decade, a new -ism had become dominant among fashionable liturgists: Feminism. Under this novel intellectual tyranny, gender-specific nouns became very unpopular; which was bad news for words like Lord. And it was also bad news for pronouns, which, notorously, "take the place of nouns", but can, in the English language and in the third person singular (he/she/him/her) be disgustingly gender-specific.

So, in the 1992 draft, the Preface did become closer to the Latin ... for a while. Here is that draft:
It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation
always and everywhere to give you thanks
... well, goodish so far ... but here comes line 4:
God of majesty and loving kindness.

You see what has happened. I explained last time how Lord represents the old Hebrew 'tetragrammton', YHWH, the august Name under which Moses and our spiritual ancestors, God's First People, addressed their God; I reminded you that Holy Father was the phrase characterising the Great High Priestly Prayer of Jesus in S John Chapter 17. But Lord and Father are, to some, unacceptably gender-specific. So the translators again applied the principle of 'Dynamic Equivalence' (go for the meaning and forget the words). Deus (God) was allowed to stay; Domine ... Omnipotens Aeterne ... (Lord ... Almighty Everlasting ...) were expressed by the word majesty; and the cuddliness assumed to be implicit in Pater (Father) was rendered by loving kindness. The same process can be seen at work in the translation, in 1992, of the Orate Fratres: ... will be pleasing to God for the Glory of God's name .... Pronouns exist to save you from continually repeating nouns ("Matilda needed to go shopping, so Matilda set out for Tescoes with Matilda's shopping list" becomes, for us unreformed and unneutered native English speakers, "Matilda needed to go shopping, so she set out for Tescoes with her shopping list"). But, for feminist liturgists, pronouns are a minefield.

When Rome considered this 1992 translation, all sorts of things hit all sorts of fans. For a while, there was some toying with the idea that it could be corrected. But it became clear that the new virus of feminist linguistics was too deeply embedded. In the end, Rome threw the whole lot out, hook, line, and sinker, and declared that Comme le prevoit, the document which prescribed the "Dynamic Equivalence" mode of translation, was no longer in force. The order went out that ICEL should be reformed and cleaned out. And a new Instruction about vernacular translations was, to the incandescent fury of Rome's critics, put in the place of Comme le prevoit. The new Instruction is a very fine and scholarly document indeed, and I will write a few words about it next time.


lxoa said...

I'm coming to relish old-style authoritarianism and the crushing of dissent. While in my heart I would instinctively air towards consultation, my brain reminds me that most of the laity campaigning for greater democracy in the Church are drawn from a narrow clique --- totally unrepresentative of the ordinary man in the pews. They tend to be 'educated' and middle-class, disproportionately female, and profoundly marinated in their own self-importance. Invariably they feel resentful towards the existent checks on the potential powers that a privileged background makes them feel entitled to. After all if the middle-class can dominate everything else in society, why should the Church be off-limits? Hence Fr Ruff’s complaints that the Vatican didn’t consult ‘mainstream scholars’ (ie. it didn’t bend over backwards to the liturgical establishment).

An elderly illiterate peasant is every bit as dear to God as a university professor --- and I have yet to experience anything which suggests to me that the latter has greater weight in matters divine than the former.

Feminism is very much a middle-class movement isn't it? It's all about being 'recognized' by others, and what could be more middle-class than that?

And that's really what pastoral councils, 'dialogue' and the whole sickening, airy-fairy shebang is all about: assuaging the vanity of the middle-class.

Matthew M said...

Just came into possession of a copy of the "Saint Andrew Daily Missal With Vespers for Sundays and Feasts and Kyriale" 1945 by Dom Gaspar Lefebvre O.S.B.
This I understand is one of the best English/Latin Missals produced. One of the exciting things I immediately latched on to was the English translation provided. Being familiar with Elizabethan or Shakespearean Prayer Book English I was thrilled at (I believe the Catholic term is 'Tudor' English)how beautifully similar this was to the BCP. Oh my, what could have been!
As much as I want to believe that VII was guided by the Holy Spirit I think something must have gone off track unfortunately. Not that these English versions couldn't stand a bit of tweeking here and there but generally speaking as a worship language they do and still would hold up very well for the majority of people in my not so humble opinion. The arrogant idea of the so-called 'experts' that the 'people' wanted modernizing and change has proven totally wrong judging by the exodus of the people from the pews , which the church has never been able to recover. Now that the majority are dying off, the younger generation which grew up with the NO aren't sticking around either. Of course there are other reasons besides the liturgy for this but it has to be a part of it.

bronzetrumpets said...

@Matthew M: "As much as I want to believe that VII was guided by the Holy Spirit I think something must have gone off track unfortunately."

Well, the NO liturgy was not quite what VII's documents actually asked for -- the ICEL current English versions certainly not! I firmly believe the *Council* was guided; the implementation of its decrees, not so much.

vetusta ecclesia said...

In Australia recently I attended Mass at which it was announced that the Bishops had decided to use the Apostles' creed when the new translation came in because it presented no gender issues!What aload of wimps (or are they wusses?)!!

GOR said...

It would be comical if it were not pathetic to hear priests of a certain age turn verbal cartwheels to avoid using the masculine pronoun or any male reference to God at NO Masses. “Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ…” “For us…harrumph…and for our salvation…”

And the feminine must always be used before the masculine in those rare occasions when lip service is paid to the realities of the human condition: “Pray, sisters and brothers…”


Steve Cavanaugh said...

Last weekend my wife and I were away for a holiday and attending Mass at a retreat center, several of the congregation said "and was made one of us" at that spot in the Creed where one is expected to say "and was made man".

After Mass, my wife (a non-believer) mentioned how the alternative reading left out the verbal play of singular and collective be omitting the word man in this case. I replied, not only that, but it also omits the reference to Christ as the "New Man" who saves us from the fate passed on to us by the "Old Man" Adam, that St. Paul wrote so fulsomely about.

But this is not the first time she has been able to detect the cant and codswallop of the trendy liberal set in the Church.