Wednesday, November 16, 2005

More on the English Translation of the Roman Missal

(Original Story from Catholic News Service)

Bishops hold informational session on new Mass translation

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops held an hourlong informational session Nov. 14, the first day of the bishops' fall meeting, to prepare for one of the biggest liturgical projects they will face in the next two or three years -- an entirely new English translation of the Roman Missal for use in the United States.

Bishop Donald W. Trautman of Erie, Pa., chairman of the Committee on Liturgy, moderated a half-hour panel presentation and led a half-hour question-answer session on the ins and outs of what the bishops can expect to deal with as they move through the translation approval process.

On the main features of the new translation, he said written consultations with the bishops have shown a major division within the hierarchy.

The current U.S. English version of the Roman Missal was adopted shortly after the Second Vatican Council, under Vatican-established translation rules that then favored accommodation to the internal structure and rhythms of the receiving language rather than literal translation when more literal translation of the Latin text would result in stilted, awkward or difficult phrasing in the receiving language. Linguists call that approach to translation "dynamic equivalence."

The Vatican recently rewrote the liturgical translation rules and now requires, as a general rule, that translations adhere more strictly to the original Latin -- an approach called "formal equivalence" by linguists.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, the U.S. bishops' representative on the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, which drafts common liturgical translations for consideration by bishops' conferences throughout the English-speaking world, said there is an ongoing tension between the two approaches. While the former translation rules favored "accommodation to the receiver language," the newer rules favor "fidelity to the original" over accommodation, he said.

Presenting the results of two nationwide consultations on a draft text of the new missal translation, Bishop Trautman said 53 percent of the bishops who responded thought the new translation was excellent or good, while 47 percent rated it fair or poor.

He said the responses indicated very different attitudes among the bishops themselves on what the style of liturgical language should be: What one bishop regarded as elevated language that enhanced the liturgy another described as "turgid" and another complained about as "not American English."

At the end of the session, the bishops were asked to express their opinions on three specific issues dealing with people's prayers or responses during the Mass:

-- When the priest says, "The Lord be with you," should the people continue the current response, "And also with you," or be required to give a response more literally translated from the Latin "Et cum spiritu tuo" -- "And with your spirit"?

-- Before Communion, should the people's prayer continue to say, "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you ..." or should they pray a more literal version of the original Latin, "Domine, non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum ..." -- "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof ..."?

-- Should the Gloria translation remain as it currently is, or should the fuller Latin text be restored in the English translation? A portion in the current version, "We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory," compresses the Latin, which says -- in full translation -- "We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory."

In the first two cases, the argument on one side is that the Latin reflects biblical passages that are not so recognizably evoked by the current English translation. In his letters St. Paul several times asks the Lord to be with someone's spirit, and the "under my roof" recalls the Gospel report about the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his daughter by just speaking a word, since he wasn't worthy to ask Jesus to come into his home.

The main argument on the other side is that since Catholics have prayed the other versions for the past 35 years it will be pastorally unsettling and harmful to make them abandon the form they are used to.

For the Gloria, a different question arises. Besides the pastoral question of changing the prayer people are accustomed to, the Gloria is often sung and there are no musical forms for the proposed new translation. In the case of the Gloria, no question of biblical warrant is involved, since only the opening words of the prayer are drawn from the Nativity narrative of St. Luke's Gospel.

Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Rapid City, S.D., a liturgy committee member and a panelist in the Nov. 14 presentation to the bishops, said the committee was asking all the bishops to express their views in a written survey on the three questions of people's prayers because only 107 bishops responded to the most recent consultation on the issue and the results were divided. The liturgy committee wanted to know how the majority of bishops feel, he said.

The results of the survey announced Nov. 15 showed that on all three texts a majority of the bishops preferred the current translation to the proposed new translation.

On the response "And also with you" and on the current version of the Gloria, 58 percent of the bishops said the current text is better. Regarding "Lord, I am not worthy ..." 55 percent of the bishops wanted to keep the current version.

The bishops were faced with conflicting rules regarding the translation of the prayers and responses of the people during Mass. On the one hand, the new rules call for greater fidelity to the original in translating everything, including the people's parts; on the other, the rules say that some exceptions can be made, especially in the people's parts, for pastoral reasons.

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