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Liturgical Translation, Again

  /   Saturday May 20, 2006  

I have to sent forth my usual disclaimer that I don’t endorse everything that Diogenes on CWN says. Sometimes he is downright uncharitable. However, it’s hard to fault him on this one. He brings forth a letter from Cardinal Arinze to Bishop Skylstad, president of the USCCB, regarding the translation of the liturgy. I just love Cardinal Arinze. Maybe this will bring us a step closer to getting a better translation of our liturgy. Then again, maybe it will cause a continued stalemate.

From reading the letter, it sounds like Skylstad was wanting to request that a new translation of the Roman Missal not be promulgated under the grounds that people are so used to our translation that it would not be “pastoral” to change it. Cardinal Arinze wasn’t buying it. I think he summed it up well like this:

The attitudes of Bishops and Priests will certainly influence the acceptance of the texts by the lay faithful as well.

This is so true, and not just of the clergy. Anyone who is a catechist can have an influence on others. For example, when I was a senior in high school, we watched a video on the Church’s teaching on contraception. The video was very dry. Afterward, we heard a somewhat sarcastic-sounding statement from our teacher that said something to the effect of “Well, there’s the Church-approved version of birth control.”

On another occasion, years after the above occasion, I was in a group where the ordination of women was discussed. The arguments against the ordination of women were talked about, but it was clear from the context and the tone that the person presenting them did not believe them. She basically said she didn’t. It was clear that the context in which these were being presented was not a proper understanding of Sacraments.

No doubt we will have some upheaval when the new translation comes out. If something isn’t done, it is likely that the only explanations of the new translations that gain wide circulation will be sneers. Of course, people who know the best resources will go to them, but the average person in the pew may not. It’s sad to report that few people think to go look for an explanation that shows the goodness of a teaching or decision of the Magisterium.

It would be a shame if people didn’t come to an appreciation of a more accurate translation of the Liturgy. I’ve made some comments on this before, and I wish to expand them here. I really don’t know what the motive is behind people not wanting to use a better translation of the Liturgy. Maybe they don’t understand the problem with the current translation. Maybe they have a theological agenda that is not exactly Catholic or even Christian. Maybe they really are concerned about people not being able to understand the text. Maybe they are afraid of the rebillion of the dissidents. I won’t judge their motivation.

However, I want to look especially at the idea of making the text understandable. Sometimes, people have, whether intentionally or not, watered down the theology in order to make something more acceptable or understandble. Well, it’s true that the translation may be easier to understand, but the understandble translation might make the actual text harder to understand because it isn’t accurate. In other words, one gains an easy understanding that is not correct and therefore doesn’t learn the truth.

Here’s another problem with making the text more understandable . . . what we are dealing with in the Mass is the Paschal Mystery. Notice the word mystery. We can’t completely understand this. If we translate the texts so that we think we can understand them, we can turn our faith into a dull intellectual exercise. We fail to teach ourselves to wonder at this marvel that we cannot fully comprehend. The finite cannot fully comprehend the infinite.

I really hope that some teeth will be applied to ICEL and whoever else may be involved in the translation. When I hear some people giving better translations of, for example, the Nicene Creed, I long to be able to say the words at Mass just like this. We need that new translation of the Liturgy as soon as possible.

Category: Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Uncategorized

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