Article on The Translation of the Mass - Sigh!
  • I just read this and am not sure what to make of it: https://international.la-croix.com/news/english-is-not-latin/6885
  • I'd say, as somebody who has done a fair bit of translation (though not, I would emphasize, liturgical translation) that the principles mentioned in the article are basically correct. However, there are (at least) two omissions:

    1. 'Meaning for meaning' (as opposed to word for word) translation requires that one get the meaning right; too often this method is used to impose new meaning rather than to capture the original.

    2. Ritual language (which is what we are talking about, here) works very differently from other sorts of language. In particular, the 'cultural condition' and expectations of those who will hear the translation looms far less largely.

    All things considered, taking also these two points into account, I feel (but it is just my non-expert opinion) that the new translation fares better than the old.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    Yes, I agree with that. While 1975 was impoverished in theology, and deliberately intended to be chantable, 2011 seems to be designed to read rather than heard or even spoken. The LIT in liturgy is not about literacy, which should not be a requirement of Christ's faithful. 1998 was better than either of them.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    Here is the 2002 explanation from CDWDS rejecting that 1998 draft translation. That happened for reasons.
    https://adoremus.org/2007/12/31/observations-on-the-english-language-translation-of-the-roman-missal/
  • Wow. I had never actually read that document until now. It's quite a dressing-down.

    "...one might cite the inappropriateness of the reference to Santa Claus in commemorating St. Nicholas". Indeed, one might.
  • I find the new translation better in tone but worse in flow than the old. Overall, still prefer the new (although it's miles from perfect)

    The new psalmody translations we are forced to use in Canada are nothing short of a travesty, though. The (not inaccurate) poetry of the last translation was replaced with utter tedium that reads and sings like the work of someone who has never laid eyes on proper English before. Hate, hate, hate it with a passion.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    As to the 'hagiographical notes' and Santa Claus :- the note in question read
    Bishop of Myra (Turkey), Nicholas died in the fourth century. Nothing more is known about his life. Since the tenth century, ... Nicholas’s reputation for generosity led to the custom of giving children gifts on his feast day, and thus to the Christmas figure of Santa Claus.
    CDWDS rightly questions the need to print this in the Altar Missal, as it is neither a liturgical text nor a rubric. However an expanded version appears both in my CTS Daily Missal Peoples Edition, and in the diocesan Ordo, including
    ... "Santa Claus" is based ultimately on his patronage of children, ...

    [Edit] Similar, though less folksy, notes appear in LOTH.
    Thanked by 1MichaelDickson
  • My reaction is probably too subtle by half, but the 'scare-quotes' around 'Santa Claus' in the second quotation make quite a (positive) difference.
  • Caleferink
    Posts: 269
    @Schönbergian (or any other Canadian contributor to this forum) Out of curiosity, what translation of the Psalms are you now having to use in Canada?
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    The 2002 Observations of CDWDS, referenced by chonak, call for use of the same scripture translation through all the liturgy, where possible (III M). Not only do I think that uniformity is an overrated virtue, but tradition does not support it. I would point in particular to the Psalter, where the office psalms are not the same as the Vulgate, a difference maintained for 15 centuries. Similarly the Anglican Psalter is not that of the KJV. Within my memory the church in England used the Knox translation at Mass where the text was read in English. I doubt anyone would want to set Knox psalms to music.
    The Lord is my shepherd; how can I lack anything? He gives me a resting-place where there is green pasture, leads me out to the cool water's brink, refreshed and content. As in honour pledged, by sure paths he leads me; ...
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,595
    Not only do I think that uniformity is an overrated virtue, but tradition does not support it. I would point in particular to the Psalter, where the office psalms are not the same as the Vulgate, a difference maintained for 15 centuries.


    Not to be rude, but So What?

    In any case, the Bishops will be ignored. Not to worry.
  • In Canada the psalter is based on the NRSV, itself based on the venerable RSV. The whole Lectionary is NRSV, of course (with adaptations). It is sometimes a little clumsy, but I having grown up on Coverdale and the AV find it more familiar, and more solemn, than the various sprung-rhythm Grail versions (one of which we used before and still use in the CBW). And having years ago set the whole Canadian NRSV Lectionary psalter to chant, by now I am happily used to it.
  • Was there ever a justification given for the rewritten Introductory Rites in the rejected 1998 Missal?

    The Pope has written that Rome should trust the episcopal conferences to do the translations faithfully. Doesn’t 1998, with its significant deviations from the editio typica, stand as glaring proof that such trust would be misplaced?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    That text was a product of ICEL in its former structure, not directly a work of the conferences; if I understand right, they had less leeway than they now have to modify proposed texts from ICEL.

    OTOH, I suppose that the conference's mere approval of the text was glaring proof, etc.
  • OTOH, I suppose that the conference's mere approval of the text was glaring proof, etc.

    Right. If they wanted it modified, the time to do that was prior to giving approval.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    Felipe - yes there was a great deal of debate in academic liturgical circles about the Introductory Rites. And there was no assumption that the innovations in the NO were the right ones. I have only an amateur interest, but I have been told by someone with a Masters in Liturgy (from a German university) that the number of different ways of arranging them within the present rubrics gives a number well over 50 (I recall 84, but don't quote me). I think the feeling in ICEL was that the Penitential Rite is perfunctory, it would be preferable to have an option so that it could be larger (or even smaller). IMHO that's right, we could well go for Cranmer's 'we like lost sheep ... ' in Lent
    Note that the Penitential Rite has moved in the Ordinariates Divine Worship Missal to immediately after the Prayer of the People, and is not part of the Introductory Rite.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 639
    In Canada the psalter is based on the NRSV, itself based on the venerable RSV. The whole Lectionary is NRSV, of course (with adaptations). It is sometimes a little clumsy, but I having grown up on Coverdale and the AV find it more familiar, and more solemn, than the various sprung-rhythm Grail versions (one of which we used before and still use in the CBW). And having years ago set the whole Canadian NRSV Lectionary psalter to chant, by now I am happily used to it.


    But didn't the Vatican order the Canadian Bishops to abandon the NRSV?
  • a_f_hawkins: What I mean is: why were the ritual changes in 1998 put into the English text rather than into the Latin—from which they would then propagate for the (assumed) good of the entire Roman Rite, rather than just one language? It’s not the role of a translator to make sweeping changes to the ritual like that. Was that ever given explanation?

    While it’s true that the translations in 1998 were, by and large, improvements over the 1970s text, the ritual changes went *way* beyond the mandate of a translation and deserved to be rejected.

    Even putting those changes aside, 1998 took a lot of unneeded liberties. For example, its variant of the Ash Wednesday collect bowdlerizes the militaristic themes that give that one such a “punch”. I can’t see any reason for that other than that some translator simply didn’t like that aspect of the original and wanted something “softer”.

    2010 has its share of problems, to be sure, and while 1998 might address some of those, it would bring a host of far deeper problems all its own. IMO, we are all better for 1998’s rejection.
    Thanked by 1rich_enough
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    Fuller reply later, but for myself I would only want the collect and other presidential proper prayer translations from 1998 considered in the short term*. Because on the whole they are as accurate and much better English than 2010, and much more comprehensible at one hearing.
    * Liturgical developments should take decades.
    Thanked by 2Liam CHGiffen
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    more comprehensible at one hearing

    That might be a deficiency in representing the originals, since the Latin texts are somewhat sophisticated language, if Christine Mohrmann's assessment was right.
    Thanked by 1Felipe Gasper
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    adjective: sophisticated
    1. having, revealing, or involving a great deal of worldly experience and knowledge of fashion and culture.
    "a chic, sophisticated woman"
    synonyms: worldly, worldly-wise, experienced, enlightened, cosmopolitan, knowledgeable; ...
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    Translators have been instructed (4th Instruction; Varietates Legitimae)
    VL 53. ... Different literary genres are to be respected, and the content of the texts of the Latin typical edition is to be preserved; at the same time the translations must be understandable to participants (cf. above No. 39), suitable for proclamation and singing, with appropriate responses and acclamations by the assembly.
    I do not think we have been given that.
    and (5th Instruction)
    LA 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.
    I do not think we have been given that.
    CDWDS acknowledge that it is difficult
    Observations (on 1998) II. C. For those Latin texts characterized by the extensive use of relative clauses, ablative absolutes, participial phrases, etc., the English text often fails to convey the precise nature of the relationship between clauses, so that the sense of the whole is lost ... The Latin text, taken globally, has conveyed with precision certain theological realities and tensions involving salvation history and the inherent dynamism of the ecclesial life of grace, which should not be lost in the vernacular text, however challenging and difficult it may be to convey them.
    Well, if I am right that 2010 is not sufficiently comprehensible, I think I could also point to deficiencies in precision. They point to the Collect for Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter. I point to the Post-communion 1st Sunday of Advent.
    What to do? Obviously nothing can be done quickly, experience and common sense show that. For the bulk of the Mass, which is repeated week in and week out, it would be sufficient IMO to implement the instruction of Trent, repeated at V2, that frequent instruction should be given on the content of these prayers, ie preach on the texts. For the propers this is hardly feasible, and that is where I maintain that allowing 1998 propers as an alternative, to pastors who think that desireable would be a good interim step, probably after a quick revision of known errors.
    I am not advocating ICEL's 1998 whole proposal as it stands, the criticisms by CDWDS are mostly well justified. It is open to Conferences/ICEL to propose novel collects and structural changes, that is what Varietates Legitimae is about, but under the newly revised Canons CDWDS still has a veto.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013

    But didn't the Vatican order the Canadian Bishops to abandon the NRSV?
    Yes, in 2005, and then reversed themselves in 2007. See
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    Was that a simple reversal, or an acceptance of a modified text?
  • a_f_hawkins: You’ve highlighted the problems well, I think. As with so many things in the OF, the different priorities exist in a state of tension. I personally think the use of the relative clause, though, is itself part of the genre of a collect, just as the verse-refrain pattern is part of the genre of contemporary popular song.

    Bear in mind, too, that the norms you cite are for translation categorically, not with regard to any particular genre. The translated texts should be easily understandable, yes, all things else being equal. All things are not equal, though: the collects are more complicated texts than, say, the psalms or the Ordinary. They’re categorically “harder” than most other liturgical texts. To make them readily easy to understand, on the whole, IMO isn’t feasible without making significant alterations to their form and/or content, and (again, IMO) the end of making them immediately comprehensible doesn’t justify that.

    If we want something that’s more comprehensible, then that change ought to go into the Latin editio typica so that every language receives the update “naturally”. This isn’t a problem of Latin-to-English; the issue is that we’re taking a literary genre and using it for proclamation (square peg, round hole); the fact that that doesn’t work all that smoothly isn’t a liability of the English translation.
    Thanked by 2rich_enough eft94530
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,013
    Felipe - Interesting, thank you, I doubt I can make a considered response within a couple of weeks as I shall be away from home. You have given me plenty to think about.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,250
    On my shelves I have a collection of Hand missals, there are children ones with shorter translations of the texts, some give the Latin some just English, there is quite a variety of different translations, for a wide range of ability...

    This is the EF of course... The idea that one translation can be suitable for all is impossible, as is the idea that regular changes to the translation could increase understanding in the PIPs.

    Remind me how long Our Lord spent explaining the Scriptures to the Doctors (experts) of 2000 years ago? I don't think anyone can say they understand the Scriptures until they have read St. Bede's and St Thomas Aquinas' commentary on them, and that is only the start.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,395
    The translations in old hand missals are occasionally very freely done; I can't remember the example, but I saw a case in which the English translation introduced a polemical anti-Protestant character to a collect which was not in the irenic Latin original. The case mattered a little because a certain controversialist author had trusted the translation and presented the prayer as evidence for some point or other.

    For an example I do remember, some editions of the Raccolta (the old Handbook of Indulgences) present the beautiful prayer of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The English version given often speaks of non-Catholic people "whom heresy holds in error", whereas the Latin expression was rather milder, speaking of those "deceived by religious opinions". I have to wonder how the old translators had the nerve to make such a modification, and on what grounds.
    Thanked by 1MichaelDickson