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Saturday, May 14, 2011



Several thoughts come to mind.

If we are to review the pertinent documents of VII we realize that the Latin original of the Roman Missal, ordinary form, was the one ostensibly intended for use. The idea that the English translation should carry this much weight in the spiritual life of the English-speaking world was likely not anticipated by many, since the "vernacular" was permitted, not prescribed. But it became the window of opportunity for others, for whom the net effect of the poor translation and the spiritual dumbing down were a desirable outcome. You might say that move from Latin, in which the Novus Ordo was written, was the means of making the reality of the Mass to be "hidden in plain sight."

The same principle applies to other elements of the mass that were not directed by the Council, but have had a cumulative effect, each one adding to the obscuring of the true nature of the Mass. The list is long but we see it in the orientation of the priest, the removal of communion rails to forcibly make the indulted communion in the hand the norm, (it is much more inconvenient to the express line of communion for someone to kneel and receive on the tongue), the wide-spread deeply rooted use of EMHCs without reference to their necessity in any given situation.

Picture a Novus Ordo Mass conducted in Latin, the priest facing the altar, and communion received at a rail served by priest and deacon only, and what you visualize is what I am sure many at VII envisioned. Moreover, it would be in strict accord with the Roman Missal and the Council.

In other words there is more that just a translation issue at fault here, but Bishop Conley is absolutely right about the power and effect of words. He says;

In the liturgy, we are praying to God in the very words of God. And God’s Word is power. God’s Word is living and active. That means that the words we pray in the liturgy are “performative.” They are not words alone, but words that have the power to do great deeds. They are words that can accomplish what they speak of.

St. John the Evangelist tells us that "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The universe was spoken into existence by God. So powerful is his Word that we know him as the second person of the Trinity.

Both St Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, in experiencing locutions or "words" from God directly in their innermost spirit, described those "words" as not just messages but accomplishing their meaning simply by virtue of being spoken by God. Word and effect were simultaneous and of one piece. How important then are words?

I am more sympathetic than I ever was in the past to those non-Catholics who reverence the King James Bible despite its theological problems, simply because I now understand more fully the effect of a higher form of English on the mind and heart.

The first opportunity that I have, I would like to attend an Anglican-use Mass as a matter of liturgical curiosity. It seems to me that strictly from the point of view of the English language, there is a strong possibility that a liturgy rooted in an English of several centuries gone by and developed from there, may well have retained some of the richness and majesty of that higher point of the language itself. It is almost impossible for a translation of anything into English done in the twentieth century to have the quality, depth and character of English that it would have had, had it been translated three or four hundred years ago.

Steve Cianca


I think your evaluation of the situation is exactly right. While I mostly agree with Bishop Conley that bad motives were not behind the mediocre translation of the Novus Ordo into English, I do believe--as you suggest--that others had an agenda which the flattened translation in use since 1970 served. Bishop Conley hinted at that when he spoke of the didactic understanding of liturgy that came to the fore since V-II. The abstract, utilitarian, almost bureaucratic style we see in the current Novus Ordo translation is practically a hallmark of 20th century English, at least non-colloquial usage.

I think your point about the KJB is an interesting one. I know for myself that much of the beauty of Handel's Messiah is the KJB verses used in that oratorio. It is these verses that I recall and meditate on when I pray rather than their more modern translations. Upon reflection, perhaps the problem with current liturgy is not that it was translated into the vernacular, but that the translation took place in the 20th century.


Mandatory reading:

Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century, by Romano Amerio.

Don't let the unfortunate cover fool you. Sandro Magister describes Amerio as "the greatest traditionalist thinker of the twentieth century." ( )

Ed Peters

LJ writes: "Picture a Novus Ordo Mass conducted in Latin, the priest facing the altar, and communion received at a rail served by priest and deacon only, and what you visualize is what I am sure many at VII envisioned."

See? this is what drives people like me, who are completely comfortable in the revised rite, when it is correctly celebrated, up a tree.

1. a 'Novus Ordo Mass' CAN be conducted in Latin anytime; if certain figures object, the problem is NOT with the mass, it's with bishops, etc. But we blame the mass.

2. I've NEVER been to a Mass where the priest did not "face the altar". I've been to many Masses where his facing the altar blocked my view of what he was doing. But that's mostly a question of architecture, no?

3. IS "communion received at a rail" even a question of rubrics? If it is not, why even bring it up in/as a criticism of the revised rite?

4. Again, "by priest and deacon only", this is not a question of rubrics, but of canon law, well enacted or otherwise. But the problem of a horde of E.M.s is offered in a package of critiques of the new rite itself. Which it isn't!

As for the terrible translations, always remember, two levels of ecc. authority had to sign off on those after ICEL got done with them, ep. confs. and Rome. I'm comfortable laying blame at the feet of only one group, when all three HAD to have a hand in what we suffered through. For decades. (NB: even this, tho, is not a question of the revsied Mass itself, but rather other matters).

I remember and respect the old Rite, and occasionally attend it, but I grew up with, accepted, studied, and even suffered for the new Rite, as the Church told me (make that, us) to do, and lately, folks like me are really starting to be made to feel as if we were, at best, semi-enlightened Catholics for having done so.

(No, LJ doesn't do that, but I'm making my point here anyway).


Ed, perhaps you have mistaken my meaning, likely because my language wasn't clear.

I am 100% with you regarding the Novus Ordo celebrated reverently and well. It is the only rite I have known, and may I say, on most Sundays is light years ahead of the average Protestant service in everything that counts.

What I did want to convey was what I think was the continuity envisioned by many at the Council. Coming from a time of exclusively what we now call "the Latin Mass" I have no doubt that the Novus Ordo was envisioned in that context. Hence my "picture in your mind" comment. And I absolutely agree that there is no canonical reason the mass could not be done as I described (what I meant by "facing the altar" was ad orientum, the liturgical east, as was the norm in the older rite.) That fact was entirely my point. The changes, such as moving the altar so that the priest could face the people, removing the altar rails, multiplying EMHCs, etc., were not mandated by the Council any more than the use of the vernacular, only permitted, yet all of which have contributed to the present state of affairs that Bishop Conley laments.

So I am not blaming the Novus Ordo at all, Ed, nor is Bishop Conley as far as I can tell. It was simply the fact of the change that gave liturgical opportunists the opening they needed or wanted, to push what was "permitted" and what was "indulted" to the limits and we all know of those who went far beyond those limits into abuses as well.

But the furor over the translation just draws attention to the fact that the almost exclusive use of the vernacular has raised in many minds the false dichotomy between the "Latin Mass" and the "English Mass" when both the ordinary and extraordinary form are Latin rite masses written in Latin by the Church.

And you are right Ed, I would never consider you semi-enlightened. Nor am I one of those crusaders for the extraordinary form. Aesthetically speaking, and for my own spiritual inspiration, I am someone who prefers simplicity, sublime simplicity, yet simplicity nonetheless; in architecture, music and liturgy.

Ed Peters

Thx, LJ. Yours was the occasion of my remarks, but not the cause. But I never put what I mean well in this matter. I should probably just leave it alone. God will sort it all out in the end. Cheers, edp.

Manuel G. Daugherty Razetto

What an inconsistent piece of work by the good auxiliary bishop of Denver. I have rarely seen a richer muddling array of contradictions such as this.

He hugely defends Novus Ordo in order to later accept enthusiastically the new Missal.

Manuel G. Daugherty Razetto

Bishop Conley says of Novus Ordo:
"It has helped the Church to re-discover the Eucharist as the source and summit of our lives"
Then he cites Benedict XVI on the Eucharist:
"The essential matter of all Eucharist Liturgy is its participation in the heavenly liturgy."
The bishop follows thus:
"Yet how many in the pews- how many of our priests at the altar- feel that they are being lifted in the heavenly liturgy?"
and he appends it :
"That is why this new translation is so important".

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