With this posting, I am going to bring this new spate of “crisis porn” to a stop.
He doesn’t speak a word of English. I wonder who he’s going to get to do the job. As one who works as a translator (French to English), there are two ways to approach a job: 1) Leave the reader the impression that the text was originally written in English, 2) Pay particular attention to accuracy as is more appropriate for a technical translation (repair manual, specifications for industrial production, user’s manuals, etc.). One would have thought that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive for liturgical texts. I am presently working on a tourism website, so I have to be looser with the style, produce something seductive to customers, but yet respect the French text. There are limits, and it is not always easy.
That presumes that a single Latin – English translator will be doing the job. Not so – it will be done corporately to exclude any person’s literary talents. The previous result was the horribly banal ICEL translation for which certain Roman Catholic liturgists are nostalgic.
For the time being, it is all in the hands of a study commission.We seem to be pushed to believe that the ICEL translation was the first approach I described. The problem is knowing whether it is a translation or a new composition in English to suit various ideological agendas. The Benedict XVI translation is an improvement on ICEL as a translation, but it does read awkwardly in places. I sometimes get such criticism from my translation agents if I have worked too literally as is my tendency.
Another approach would have been to go for the archaic idiom we continuing Anglicans use: the kind of English that was written in the sixteenth century which can be found in Cranmer’s Prayer Book, the King James Bible and related texts from contemporary sources like the Tyndale Bible and Coverdale’s psalter and a translation of the Roman Canon attributed to him (the version used in the Anglican Missal). I can hardly imagine English, Australian or American cradle Roman Catholics accepting an invasion of Anglican culture into their “pure” Church! The choice was Latin or modern English.
This article sings the praise of the ICEL translation which had some revision work done on it in 1998. It might have been a freer and more English idiom in some ways, but it repulsed me when I attended modern language masses in the RC Church. Emphasis has been placed on English that everyone can understand – the lowest common denominator. As an educated person, I have no difficulty in understanding sixteenth-century English, though some words might need looking up. Again, there are limits to the dialectics between literal and artistic translation. “For all men” is not a translation from “pro multis“. It is an ideologically-motivated betrayal of the Latin text. If the Latin Novus Ordo was not meant to be translated, then why didn’t they do a text in Italian and translate that into all other languages and not bother with Latin at all?
It seems to me that it is not simply a matter of translation, working on style and syntax, but one of “de-ratzingerisation” and a return to the authoritarianism and reforming agenda of Paul VI. For a Pope who speaks only Spanish and Italian, I really do wonder why he is so concerned about our English language. There may be problems with the expression in modern English of Greek and Latin theological terms like consubstantial, or even matter, substance and form as understood by those having studied Greek philosophy. We could say offering instead of oblation, but would that mean anything more to a person who does not have the least idea about Jewish and Christian sacrifice? Do away with sacrifice in favour of a group of people enjoying a moment together to say prayers and feel their relationship – and what words do you use. Does offering mean anything? I doubt it. Then you need to change the concept. Now it is no longer translation and we are just making it up as we go along. My old liturgy professor at Fribourg was into this kind of game. He even gave us methods and ideas for writing our own eucharistic prayers based on a set plan! I could not believe the stupidity of someone who was so well versed in the history and theology of the liturgy…
What is Pope Francis’ vision? As far as I can see, nothing new, just rehashed ideologies from the 1970’s that were moderated a little by John Paul II but which continued to the present day in the RC Church and the Anglican Communion, some of the Lutherans and even some of the Orthodox. We Anglicans tend to use the term revisionism, which is an improvement on Modernism, but also quite inadequate. I just see an attempt at bringing Christianity into line with politically correct deconstructionism as might be compared with some of the neo-Marxist ideas of the Frankfurt School.
It may be argued that Liturgiam Authenticam of Benedict XVI attempted to stem the excesses of inculturation and acculturation. These terms presume a uniformity of cultural references in a country, not only the Congo or Gabon, but in European countries where values are more based on the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and also where populations are influenced by American pop culture. I can safely say that Pope Francis’ vision does not ring a bell with me nor with most people who don’t go to church, or who belong to others churches and communities. A lot is being presumed – and it doesn’t for the most part correspond with reality. I understand the argument that Benedict XVI’s new translation (or or whoever did the job) is somewhat “wooden”, artificial and presumes a single monoculture. Six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Cultural imperialism? That’s a new one on me. I think Francis is just as guilty of it as Pius IX, Paul VI or anyone. There is nothing more “imperial” than his bureaucracies and episcopal conferences and who knows what else. It just seems to be one big game of tit-for-tat, and of little interest to those not making money from it all.
It will be interesting to see what eventually comes out of all this, a simple reinstatement of the 1998 revision of the ICEL stuff, which would be the quickest and easiest solution. The books are already printed and probably still kept in most sacristy cupboards. They might come out with something new long after Francis’ death. Who knows? Someone is sure to restart the electric spark machines of Frankenstein’s laboratory…
Again, I was done with Roman Catholicism a long time ago, when Ratzinger was not yet elected Pope. Some are into “crisis porn” (getting their jollies reading about more scandals and abuses), and others play naive or are naive due to their young age and inexperience of life. I see no way ahead for the RC Church or its hierarchy. I have no sympathy for it. I have no hatred or bitterness towards it either.
For a Pope who seems to be so concerned for cultural diversity, how about alienated Anglicans, non-neurotypicals, those with artistic sensitivities, the educated, those who appreciate the subtleties of written and spoken language? We don’t seem to be offered any option other than repression and ostracism.
The difference is that some of us are not waiting for anything from this Pope, because we are in other churches and communities and do all we can to live in the Church of Christ and God’s grace. We have our liturgies. None of them is perfect or flawlessly translated into our own languages, but they are vehicles of grace and God’s presence in his Church.