Bishops nix Mass language

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The nation’s Catholic bishops are going to reject a new Vatican translation of certain prayers in the Mass, according to a Religion News Service story we picked up from the Chicago Tribune today. All the votes aren’t in yet, but a resolution proposed at the bishops’ recent meeting in Orlando is not going to get the needed 166 votes to install the new liturgical changes. 

The issue will come up again in November during the bishops annual confab in Baltimore, but what’s unusual about this vote is that never before have bishops rejected an entire Vatican document of suggested translations. The debate is over how true to the original Latin these prayers should be. Many of the translations from the Latin are almost unintelligible in English and the bishops, who are facing declining Mass attendance figures as it is, don’t want to make it harder for folks to worship. 

This is the same issue Bible translators have worked with. The New American Standard Bible has been criticized for unwieldy English because of the translators’ intent to stay true to the original languages. But free-wheeling translations, such as the Rev. Eugene Peterson’s “The Message,” are readable, all right, but are not literal word-for-word renditions of Old Testament Hebrew and Aramaic and New Testament Greek. 

I first saw this story in Rocco Palmo’s Whispers in the Loggia blog on Monday, which has a good explanation of the problems the bishops had with what the Vatican handed down. When you have some insiders calling the Vatican translations “a linguistic swamp,” that’s a red flag. Mr. Palmo’s readership is mainly Catholic, so he can use in-house terms those of us in the secular media can’t employ as he did with this earlier post that explained the specific problems the bishops had with the translations.

My question: Considering how this is such an open revolt by the bishops, didn’t anyone in Rome see this coming?

 

— Julia Duin, assistant national editor/religion, The Washington Times

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About the Author
Julia Duin

Julia Duin

Julia Duin is the Times' religion editor. She has a master's degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...

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