ORE THAN a billion people currently belong to the Catholic Church. A considerable number of those people speak (or read) English. When the new English translation was introduced, I had expected a tremendous outcry. Why? Because translations, by their very nature, are usually something about which nobody is happy. There’s an old expression: The translator is a traitor.
However, the new translation of the Roman Missal has been around for more than a year, and I have yet to read a single serious article or paper calling for a return to the old translation. I have yet to encounter a single serious Catholic priest or bishop who does not admit that the Roman Missal, Third Edition is a vast improvement. Nor have I seen any serious article making the case that the old translation was more accurate than the current one.
Before going further, let us remind ourselves what the “old ICEL” translation was like. One good way to do this would be to read the following 1990 article by Msgr. Schuler:
* Article by Msgr. Richard J. Schuler about the “old” ICEL translation [pdf].
As alluded to above, translations are similar to hymns: everybody always has something to say about them. Everyone always has an opinion. Everybody always wants to toss in his “two cents.” The fact that not one serious person has, for instance, drawn up a chart attempting to show that the old ICEL translation was more accurate than the new astounds me.
What do I, personally, think of the new translation? I think it is a vast improvement and makes a tremendous difference because it is so much more accurate than the previous ICEL translation. For instance, look at the old ICEL version of the “Exsultet” and compare it to the original Latin. It was a travesty and an embarrassment.
I do feel that the new translation is not as beautiful as it might have been. For instance, it pales in comparison to many of the translations used before the Council. ICEL would have been able to produce a much more beautiful translation if they had taken the time to carefully consult the old daily missals (“hand missals”) like the St. Joseph Daily Missal, Fr. Lasance’s Missal, and so forth. Furthermore, some of the “politically correct” phrases sound like nails scratching on a chalk board to my ears. “And peace on earth to people of good will” comes to mind.
Having read numerous articles like the one written by Msgr. Schuler, I can only guess that the almost total lack of serious criticism of the new translation can only be attributed to the unbelievable depravity of the previous ICEL translation (created, I believe, around 1969). As many people have commented over the years, the previous translation (in many instances) was unworthy of any self-respecting first year Latin student. I should add: one of the reasons that the new translation was so much more accurate is that, a few years ago, the Holy Father completely reformed ICEL.