The Return of “And also with you”?

With this posting, I am going to bring this new spate of “crisis porn” to a stop.

Pope Francis has ordered a review of the new Mass translation

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.

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7 Responses to The Return of “And also with you”?

  1. J.D. says:

    All the usual mainstream RC folks ( PrayTell Blog, Commonweal, America) are seemingly overjoyed. I admit I’m a little dismayed by this even though at this point I’ve no skin in that game. I came into the RC Church during the Benedict XVI years when,all things considered, there was a sense that maybe things were starting to move in a better direction. Benedict, for all his flaws, was at least a quiet light. The Church under Francis is undoing everything that happened under the Benedict years.

    Most of my trad friends and even a few mainstreamers are seriously contemplating Francis as an antipope. For mainstream traddies and average conservative Pauline Mass goers to contemplate this must mean they are totally desperate. I’ve tried to explain to them that all this nonsense is precisely because the papacy has too much power and authority, and that as long as ANY Pope is given that much authorityand power the winds of change will continue to blow based on the whims of one man.

    I’ve got nothing against Roman Catholics no the Catholic Church, but my days of innocence and hope within that communion are over.

    • One thing about all this is that it is a moment of realism, truth, and that RC’s face a similar dilemma to that of American Anglicans in 1977 or English Anglicans in 1992. It isn’t yet about the ordination of women but I wouldn’t put it past Pope Francis in a few years time (if he lives long enough).

      It is a little like individual Germans as opposed to their nation that went Nazi in 1933, and individual Roman Catholics who try to hold on and live a spiritual life in the Church in which they grew up in their families as opposed to their Church entering its “1933” moment. I feel the same about England when so many people are suffering from the effects of unaffordable housing, welfare and public service cuts and many more things that bring people to helplessness and suicide.

      I spent a part of my life in the RC Church. I was not born into a RC family or even a practising Anglican one. My days of innocence and hope were gone about twenty years ago, and I went to “vagante-land” and then to the TAC. Lo and behold, the bishops’ meeting came up in 2007 and Archbishop Hepworth announced the plan that would lead to the near-destruction of the TAC and the Primate’s downfall. Benedict XVI was a brief glimmer of light like Benedict XIV in the 18th century, and the gloom returned in early 2013 when I was was mourning my mother’s death. In spite of the kindness of Archbishop Prakash and the clergy of the TAC’s diocese in England, I needed to be out of it, and I am grateful for Bishop Damien Mead’s welcome into his clergy where I have stayed ever since.

      Many Roman clergy were kind to me since my time with the ICKSP and Msgr Wach (that’s how he is styled, so I will respect that), but they were in the system. Some clung to their parishes where they had been for decades and their people were prepared to resist the Bishop with tractors and pitchforks. All those priests have since died. The last links with what Catholicism represented are gone.

      Sedevacantism is logical but based on bad premisses. Traditional RC’s will have to come round to a position similar to the Dutch Old Catholics prior to 1889 or the continuing Anglicans – and accept the validity of our Orders. To all too many, that would be apostasy against the “true church”. What a tragedy. Their only way out will be atheism!

      • antoninus72 says:

        Sadly, I have heard some Roman Catholics say that if they ever have proof that the RCC is not the Church that the gates of Hell can not overcome, their only other option would be atheism, not another Christian body. I find that very unfortunate.

      • I am brought to think of the cognitive distortion of all-or-nothing thinking when considering tendencies towards anxiety and depression.

        We interpret something as not allowing any other way of thinking. Everything is situated at one extreme or the other: success / failure, etc. It is the kind of thinking that often leads to depression.

        In our own lives, we have to identify these distortions and see them as part of a continuum, a spectrum, and no longer one extreme or the other.

  2. J.D. says:

    This past weekend I spent with my girlfriend and her family doing things at the local Buddhist Temple for Lunar New Year. She and her family are unapologetically Vietnamese through and through. For me it was interesting because it was a way to step outside the usual narrative and experience something different. There are whole groups of people out there that have no ties to ANY church or Christianity at all. It helps put all our own inter ecclesial dramas into a larger perspective…at least for me.

    • I agree with you. We need to get out and about. I have been watching some documentaries about people with Asperger’s. Some are very “black and white”, all one extreme or the other. With self-acceptance and imagination, we discover a whole new world with ourselves and others. One thing it can give us is a healthy criticism of “conventional wisdom”. It must be quite fascinating to go to worship in different religions and discover what they believe and do, and how it affects their lives. There isn’t much near where I live, but I am curious about new experiences.

      I indulged in “crisis porn” for these posts – aware that we do need to move on and find what is good and positive.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Back in 1971, Leonard Bernstein’s curious and controversial “Theatre Piece”, “Mass”, had it in Latin:

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