Tuesday, May 31, 2016




30 May 2016 | by Tom Heneghan

Vatican insisting on a precise translation of a new Latin text

The French-speaking Catholic world is heading for the same tug-of-war over translating the Roman Missal that their English-speaking cousins fought and lost five ago. As in the case of the English text, the Vatican insists on a precise translation of the new Latin text approved in 2002. 
The planned new text, meant to replace the first translation made after the Second Vatican Council, will be used in the French-speaking parts of Europe, Canada, Africa and the Caribbean for the next half-century. The bishops’ first draft was rejected by the Vatican in 2007.
Several francophone bishops conferences, especially in Belgium, Canada and Switzerland, have raised objections to the latest text that they find pompous and unnatural, the French daily La Croix reported. The French bishops are less critical, but still have reservations.
But Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, told the French magazine Famille Chrétienne  that Pope Francis had recently told him “the new translations of the Missal must absolutely respect the Latin text.”
The latest text introduces the adjective “consubstantial” that English speakers discovered in their new Missal, and brings back the “through my fault” sequence that had been replaced by “Yes, I have truly sinned” in French. 
For the chalice, it turns the current word for chalice “coupe” back to the older “calice”, which has become a swear word for exasperated French Canadians. The introduction to the Offertory (“Orate fratres”) has become stilted and hard to recite.
By contrast, a change to the Lord’s Prayer has been well received. The currently used French prayer now says “do not submit us to temptation”, which theologians say implies that God tempts people to sin. The new translation, which France’s Protestant churches also support, says “do not let us enter into temptation”.   

Sent from my iPad


Rood Screen said...

"God" and "Jesus Christ" are used as swear words, so how have the French Canadians translated those up to now?

TJM said...

And nothing spells success like "Catholic" Belguim, Canada, and Switzerland. Yes,always listen to the failures when considering changes.

Richard M. Sawicki said...

Deo gratias!

"Brick by brick" as the Abbé Zed is wont to say.

BTW, I still think naming Cardinal Sarah to the CDW is one of the Holy Father's two best curial appointments (the other being the re-appointment of Mueller at CDF).

Gaudete in Domino Semper!

John Nolan said...

They should not 'slavishly' reflect the Latin text but accurately translate it. After Vatican II Louis Bouyer, Yves Congar and Henri de Lubac (none of them liturgical 'conservatives') sent a letter to Paul VI roundly condemning deliberate mistranslations in the French liturgical books, which Bouyer referred to as 'scandalous'.

These mistranslations were the work of the Modernist Jacques Cellier. By the way, it was he who composed the Offertory prayers of the Novus Ordo and according to Bouyer 'with tailor-made arguments manipulated the despicable Bugnini in such a way that his production went through despite nearly unanimous opposition.'

The more we know about the provenance of the Novus Ordo, its cut-and-paste methodology, the dubious characters who fabricated it, its dishonest 'ressourcement' based on now discredited scholarship, its apparently normative and sloppy ars celebrandi, its rendition into a babel of tongues including those which do not deserve to be regarded as literate languages, its readiness to adopt appalling music setting equally appalling non-liturgical texts - the more we need to resort to the classic Roman Rite, which our bishop referred to on Trinity Sunday as 'the gold standard of the liturgy'.

There is really no alternative.

rcg said...

John N. Is spot on, especially about the need for accurate versus literal translations. This should elevate the need for Latin in the minds of the laity so they can 'participate' more fully in meditation on the prayers and lessons and, perhaps suprisingly to some, saves time from correcting errors generated by the pseudo, or at least sloppy, translations we have had in the past. The specific passage in the Pater Noster cited in the article I have considered 'inducus' as meaning 'carried' as by one's environment similar to the magneticly induced electric current or as one is inducted to a membership. I don't think the NO lends itself to investigation of the meaning of prayers without working against itself.

Lulu said...

"...its rendition into a babel of tongues including those which do not deserve to be regarded as literate languages..."

Which languages might those be, John?

Rood Screen said...

Given the state of Catholicism in those countries, I first wonder why they even bother to produce a translation for the handful of lukewarm Catholics left there, but then I remember that the current Latin missal is already fourteen years old, so there clearly is little liturgical zeal to finish it.

John Nolan said...

'Do not let us enter into temptation' I would suggest is a mistranslation. 'Ne' plus subjunctive has the force of an imperative: 'Do not lead us into temptation'. The Greek has a similar construction. What is at issue here is the precise meaning of 'tentatio' (accusative 'tentationem', in Greek 'peirasion').

In classical Latin 'tentatio' meant a) attack b) trial c) proof. The verb 'tentare' is an intensive form of 'tendere' - to stretch. Temptation, in the sense of an inclination to do evil, is too narrow a definition, particularly as we know God does not do this. But He can certainly put us to the test, as he did Abraham and Job, and we would rather He didn't!

Vox Cantoris said...

At least the "pro multis" is not an issue. That was always done correctly.

Lulu said...

I was referring to the tongues which do not deserve to be considered languages...?

bvs said...

Wow...exactly translate the latin text...maybe I 'm a bit young to appreciate the controversy, but surely that's a no brainer.

Unless bishops are interested in subtly altering meaning,why wouldn't they want exact translations.

If it's too unwieldy, guess what? They can use the original Latin.

Anyway, wasn't the idea that the vernacular was to be used on rare occasions and the norm was supposed to be Latin? Guess they forgot about that eh?

You know that term " the Cafeteria Catholic ", well I think that Vatican II should be called the "Cafeteria Council". Just take the bits you like and make up the rest.

It amazes me that 50 years of "The new and improved" Catholic Church has created more confusion, strife, division, lack of knowledge about the faith and indifference to Church teaching than the old and decidedly unfashionable Church produced in 2000 event filled years.

John Nolan said...


I said literate languages. This would not include corrupt forms of English such as pidgin or some tribal languages lacking the wherewithal to convey certain abstract ideas. The reason why Latin was used throughout the west was because barbarian languages did not have the vocabulary to express theological concepts.

Rood Screen said...


Many isolated languages must borrow many of their theological terms from a Romance or Latin-influenced language. Tagalog is a prominent example.

Anonymous said...

"...its rendition into a babel of tongues including those which do not deserve to be regarded as literate languages..."

For instance, the banal kindergarten English of the ICEL 1973 translation of the Roman Missal, now (thankfully) only a bad memory (except for those still using the ICEL 1975 English "translation" of the Liturgy of the Hours).

rcg said...

Virtually any of the pidgin languages are in capapable of the conceptual continuity without reaching back to one of its root languages. I would put American English in this group as it is presented in the common press.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

bvs - The struggle is in deciding what constitutes an "exact translation."

Then you have to add to that the question, "What is the purpose of translation?"

LA gave rules for translation that many professional and talented translators found wanting. For example, LA directs that, insofar as possible, Latin syntax should be maintained in the English translations. The problem is, there's a world of difference between Latin syntax and English syntax, so the result is, far too often, stilted, awkward, and muddled.

An example of being overly "exact" might be today's Prayer After Communion:
Refreshed by heavenly food,
we humbly implore you, O Lord,
that, attentive to the teaching of St. Justin the Martyr,
we may abide at all times in thanksgiving
for the gifts we have received.
through Christ our Lord.

"...we may abide at all times in thanksgiving..." may be "exact" in one sense, but, in standard English, it is an awkward way of saying, "we may be grateful for" or "we may always be grateful for." We don't "abide in thanksgiving" much these days, outside the Missal.

A very good book on the difficulties of translation is "Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language" by Douglas Hofstadter.

Anonymous said...

"For example, LA directs that, insofar as possible, Latin syntax should be maintained in the English translations."

My guess--and it's only that--is that even the authors of LA are well aware that exact mirroring of the syntax of one language may not give the best and most accurate (in meaning) translation to another language.

However, the problem they faced in 2001 was that for several decades the various translation commissions had been dominated by ideologues who were determined to take advantage of the "license" of translation to alter meaning for ideological purposes, and/or were willing to sacrifice meaning for the ostensible purpose of ease of understanding by the untutored.

That said, what is "best" in liturgical translation may not be obvious. In the Mass, the priest offers the prayers to God on behalf of the people. When an attorney in court addresses the judge on behalf of his clients, is it more important that he use language that accurately express proper legal arguments, or language that is more easily followed by his clients?

John Nolan said...

Fr Kavanaugh

We have been over all this before, and I am tired of pointing out to you the obvious fact that Latin and English syntax is different since Latin is highly inflected and English is not. Yet this does not preclude accurate translation. You admitted that you were happy to pray ICEL 1974, irrespective of its inaccuracy, since you were ignorant of the Latin prayers it purported to translate, but in fact signally failed to do so.

That's your problem, and your ignorance, not mine.

Anonymous said...

"However, the problem they faced . . . ."

So the strait jacket of precisely literal translation from the original Latin may have seemed the only effective way to "force" accurate and faithful translation, in the climate that had prevailed in recent decades.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

John - If you are tired - of anything - get more rest. Easy solution.

I suggest that maintaining Latin syntax in English translations does result in less-than-optimal texts.

And thank you, again, for pointing out that your Latin is far, far better than mine. I'm sure that gives you a great sense of, well, something... We philistines just have to be content with living in your shadow I guess.

Henry - God does not care whether we pray in Latin, in highly "Latinized" English, or in ICEL 1974 English. It does not impact God in any way whatsoever. If our translations of prayers is poorly done, how does this impact God? Answer: It doesn't.

The argument that LA supporters make is that the English texts should be "slavishly" accurate because that results in the English prayers more accurately portraying/containing the ideas in the original Latin which are then communicated to the people for their understanding.

If the English texts are clunky, that communication is weakened.

Anonymous said...

"If the English texts are clunky, that communication is weakened."

Agreed. Even without any real intimacy with Latin, I have carefully compared the original Latin and the new English for essentially all of the classical orations in Roman Missal 3/e, and can readily see how many of the new collect translations could be improved still further--that is, could be more smoothly (but with equal accuracy) put into English. However, I suspect no one wants to fight the battle for accuracy again, so we likely will not see another new translation in our lifetimes. So better to find happiness in what we've got.

"The argument that LA supporters make is that the English texts should be slavishly accurate because that results in the English prayers more accurately portraying/containing the ideas in the original Latin"

Wrong argument. The "slavishly accurate" argument is that--in the climate of the times, with many professional liturgists determined (for whatever reasons) to dilute meaning--a requirement of slavishly literal translation was thought necessary in order to guarantee accurate preservation of the meaning of the original Latin.

Anonymous said...

"God does not care whether we pray in Latin, in highly "Latinized" English, or in ICEL 1974 English."

But I suspect that He does care what we mean when we pray, and what prayers we pray. Unfortunately, many of the ICEL 1973 prayers departed so far in meaning as really to be different prayers than those hallowed by centuries of faithful use in Latin. And not all of us were not so poorly catechized as not to realize this all along.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Henry - I think the battle for smooth, accurate translations is worthwhile.

I wait for evidence that translators wanted to "dilute meaning."

I don't agree that God is concerned with, "...what we mean when we pray, and what prayers we pray."

In fact, I'm sure of it because, "...your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."

Anonymous said...

"I wait for evidence that translators wanted to "dilute meaning.""

No need to wait any further. You don't even need to know any Latin. Just pick up your obsolete 1973 translation--if you haven't already dumped it in the trash bin--and compare a dozen randomly selected collects there with their counterparts in the 2011 translation, which (however clunky in spots) attains a high standard of faithfulness to the original meanings of the Latin collects. ("Trust me" if your Latin is insufficient to make the direct comparison yourself of 1973 English with Latin.) The differences (or incompleteness) of meaning--between 1973 and 2011--that you'll see with your own eyes will provide first-hand the evidence you're looking for.

John Nolan said...

Henry, of course it will, but Fr K has read the liberal critique of LA and regurgitates it uncritically. I can find examples in the 2011 translation where a perhaps too literal translation has been used, and there is one glaring howler - the translation of the Introit 'In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os ejus' - but these can be easily corrected.

Latin syntax simply cannot be replicated in English since the former relies on inflexions (word endings) whereas the latter relies on word order. Ablative absolutes (a staple in Latin) have no English equivalent. I gave Fr K plenty of examples but he's not really interested in the facts, since they get in the way of his prejudices.

If he were to follow the logic of his last sentence then all we would need to do is sit in silence and let God read our thoughts. Some sects actually practice this and eschew liturgical prayer altogether.

Tony V said...

Are the French translations available on line--new, old, and rejected? I'd be interested in having a look. Why on earth would they have to re-translate the Our Father? That's been said in the vernacular for yonks.

Mind you, I've got the same question about the English translations...the old Tridentine Missal existed in approved English translations for years as well--although most of us only look at the Latin on the left-hand pages, the right side provided the same but in English. Why they had to re-translate the Nicene Creed in 1973 is beyond me.

(Of course, some prayers changed--like the suppression of the mention of those saints in the Confiteor, which was too, well Catholic.)

For the record, English syntax isn't that different from Latin, as they're both Indo European languages. Word order is more constrained in English becuase of the loss of inflections, but syntactical structure is pretty much the same. (Compare to Chinese, which really is different.) What you're talking about is style, not syntax. Read John Donne or Joseph Addison--or the Book of Common Prayer--and you'll see a style not unlike the more recent, more accurate Engish translation.

Blast, I drifted to English when we're supposed to be talking about French. I'll tell you the trouble with the vernacular liturgy in French--it just advances the extermination of local dialects which the secularists have been driving for years. Likewise German and Italian. Only "standard" language translations have been produced. That's a crime. (Don't forget that St Bernadette didn't even speak standard French.) The Novus Ordo kills local patois. And if you needed proof that Vatican II was a Masonic plot hatched by aliens from the Andromeda galaxy, there you are.

Rood Screen said...

The Orations are addressed to God, and He understands them perfectly well, whatever the translation. Might as well leave these prayers in Latin.

As for the congregation's parts of the Mass, if priests preach on the texts of the Mass, especially the Ordinary, then the people will come to understand even the more complex responses and acclamations, whether in Latin, English or, God help us, Canadian French.

rcg said...

Fr K, I respectfully disagree including and especially with your conclusion that the exact translation, resulting in "abide in thanksgiving" is clunky or even awkward. We hope to spend eternity in praise; this seems to fit neatly into that goal. I am also certain beyond a doubt that what we think and how we think it matters and forming our thoughts properly is vital to meaningful action and even our existence. Although words may fail, they can assist, and help complete the thought. Even knowing that the "name that is named is not the true name" advances the concept. I really like Douglas Hofstadter and his endeavor to understand self and cognition. But we depend, even in his framework, on a seed of a thought as reference. The beauty of the flowering thought must be regressible back to the, perhaps, unlovley nugget that birthed it. Otherwise the flower can claim no kinship with its phylogeny and we will not benefit from it as intended. The fact that we find ourselves riskng distraction or unable to compare the quality of a passage we write to its source should be our measure of knowing that the competing thoughts are not the same. If we attempt to hold the two thoughts as equivalent and investigation shows that they are not then the new thought will be suspected as having sprung from a bad nut.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Henry - You imputed a dark motive - a desire to dilute the meaning of the prayers. There's no evidence that that took place.

John - Any disagreement with you on language most, by definition, come form uncritical thinking. Please pardon the struggles of us mere linguistic mortals.

And, no, my logic does not lead us to sit in silence before God. If the prayers are meant to be understood by the people, then let's make them as understandable as possible and give up the charade that Latin syntax imposed on English translations is the way to accomplish this.

rcg - Words are what we have when speaking about the liturgy - they matter greatly. They not only "assist" us, they direct us, teach us, fashion and shape us. "Sticks and stones" is a cute saying, but, ultimately, untrue. Words matter.

Our thought seeds are words. When the thoughts are wrapped in phrases studded with foreign syntactical constructions, alien word order, and archaic phraseology, well, then, the seed lies dormant.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Another example of wrongly imposed Latin syntax resulting in non-standard English... The Ordo suggested 14 Sun Ord Time for mass this morning

O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestow eternal gladness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ...

A better rendition, saying precisely the same thing, but in a more understandable English format:
O God, who in the abasement of your Son
have raised up a fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for you bestow eternal gladness
on those you have rescued from sin.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ...

The repositioning of two phrases is a small matter, but the result is, I think, preferable in terms of standard English syntax.

TJM said...

Look, here is a very simple example of the dishonesty of the translations wrought under the comme le prevoit principle. The Domine Non Sum Dignus. "Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed." This is dishonest on so many levels. First, it strips the words spoken by the Centurian, thus depriving the listener of the scriptural basis for the prayer (weird since Vatican II recommended more scripture in the Mass, not less) and secondly it suggests that the body is going to be healed, as evangelicals get all excited about, rather than that the "soul" shall be healed. I REFUSED to use this faulty translation and always recited this prayer in Latin during those dark years. Now I say it in English when I am attending an English language Mass.

TJM said...

Kavanaugh, I like the first one better. Just say it in Latin then and we'll both be happy.

rcg said...

Fr. K., thank you for the reply. It seems to me that your first paragraph agrees with my point. The second paragraph concerning the archaic is what is most vital to understanding the meaning of the present. Your example of the collect in its more rigourous translation also gives greater pause for thought and subsequent understanding, i.e.: Why would it be phrased that way? What happened first? Why did it happen first? There is also an elevation of the mind and spirit in an intriguingly turned phase. On the extreme ends of the population there are people who want their god-biscuit with a few promises then go home; on the other end there are people who become encased in in the amber of specific era. In both cases the person may be lost at least mentally. In the middle is the person who knows that everything about him is based in the past and that he is completely an anachronism unless he remains connected and in context, in continuity, with his past. Everything, including our words, are from the past and we cannot use them correctly unless we acknowledge that phylogeny.

rcg said...

TJM, that particular petion/prayer was a sticking point for our liturgical working group when the "new translation" came out. The leader seemed determined to translate 'sub tecum meum' as the roof of one's mouth I can only suppose to retain the imagry of the Mass as a meal. I am surprised I was not forcibly removed.

John Nolan said...

Actually, the Latin has 'a servitute peccati' (from the bondage of sin') so although Fr Kavanaugh's tweaking of the word order is quite justified as far as translation is concerned, the failure to translate 'servitus' is more difficult to explain.

No-one suggests that the latest translations are ideal, but the English version, which influences other languages (such as Welsh, which is translated from the English rather than the Latin) has gone from being the most inaccurate rendition of the Latin to the most accurate. That is no mean achievement.

It doesn't affect me too much, since I have enough Latin to understand what the prayers mean, but even at a Latin Mass in the Novus Ordo those in the congregation who are not so proficient have an accurate translation rather than a paraphrase in baby-language. And there is plenty of evidence that the original redactors (and not just into English) wanted to dilute or even change the meaning of the prayers. If Fr K wants evidence there is plenty of it, although I suspect he will take no cognizance of it.

TJM said...

John Nolan,

Amen! Words mean what they say. Change the words, change the meaning. That is a left-wing loon specialty

Anonymous said...

(1) With a priest who chants the proper orations--at least on Sundays and feast days, if not on ferias--I've noticed that those English translations that sound clunky when merely read, don't when chanted properly.

(2) At a vernacular Mass I usually follow the priest's prayers in Latin, while at a Mass in Latin I often follow them in English. Preservation of syntax in the translation facilitates side-by-side correspondence for those whose Latin is not nimble.

Tony V said...

Regarding Fr K's example (June 2, 2016 at 10:07 AM):

This is NOT a question of "Latin syntax" imposed on English. It's simply a matter of whether an adverbial prepositional phrase ("on those") which contains a relative clause ("[whom]you have rescued from slavery to sin") goes before or after the verb. Either way is perfectly good ("standard") English (or Latin, for that matter). This is a matter of style, not syntax.

I'm not saying the new translation's perfect. That "He himself took bread" improperly translates "ipse". But it's far better than the deliberate mistranslations of 1973 ("And also with you", "We believe", etc). And sometimes the clunkiness is a faithful rendition of the clunkiness of Bugnini's Novus Ordo ("like the dewfall", "supper of the Lamb").

Unknown said...

I really wish they'd go back to using vous in the Notre Père. I'd never 'tutoyer' my grandmother, and using it in prayer is simply offensive. It's made even more weird by the Ave Maria in French, which starts, 'Je vous salue Marie...' I also wish they'd replace 'amen' with 'Ainsi soit-it', but that's likely never going to happen. Why on earth people have problems with a 'Latinised' text but no problem with using 'amen' is beyond me.

These options do exist, I suppose, in the EF. I pray the Benedictine Office, and my Latin-French diurnal is perfectly to my (reasonable) preferences.

John Nolan said...

The version of the Pater using 'tu' was adopted to bring it into line with Protestant practice. Prots don't pray the Ave so 'vous' is retained.

English in Shakespeare's time had 'thou' as the familiar singular form and 'you' as the polite form (as French does). Yet 'thou' is used in both the Pater and Ave and before the 1960s in all prayers. No-one as far as I know ever regarded it as offensive.

Latin has second person singular and second person plural, full stop. Much more logical and sensible.

John Nolan said...

I heard the following, albeit some years ago, after the Consecration: 'C'est grand, le mystère de foi, n'est-ce pas?'