MAKE NO SECRET of my appreciation for the 2011 English translation of the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. I am an unabashed supporter who has publicly sung the praises of this new translation very often (for example, in an article for Homiletic & Pastoral Review and on Views from the Choir Loft HERE, HERE, & HERE).
I would be hard-pressed to think of a parishioner who dislikes the new translation. The occasions when I’ve heard a complaint about it from an ordinary churchgoer are extremely few. This translation received an overwhelmingly positive response from a September 2012 CARA study, which found that 7 in 10 Catholics feel the new translation is “a good thing.”
Yet, when reading certain publications, one gets the sense that every Catholic in the world is up-in-arms about the present translation. Why is there this dichotomy?
One of the most commonly proffered solutions to the “offensive,” “clunky,” and “imposed” new translation is that we should scrap it and simply use the 1998 English translation that was the result of many years of work. In a recent letter to the editor of The Tablet, Father Gerald O’Collins, SJ, made an impassioned plea that permission be given to use the 1998 translation. All such requests have been denied by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the CDW.
I will not explore all the issues with the 1998 translation in detail here. Suffice it to say that its creators subscribed to the theory of “dynamic equivalence,” and the result was a very “dynamic” translation. This principle of translation, of course, was supplanted by the method of “formal correspondence” by directive of the 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam.
The most important reason why the 1998 translation cannot simply be used to replace the 2011 translation, however, is often overlooked. The reason is this: the 1998 text is a translation of the second typical edition of the Roman Missal from 1975. The third typical edition was promulgated in Latin in 2002. How could we reasonably revert to a translation of an outdated Missal, much less such a loose translation that never held any force? The 1998 translation is obsolete in every way.
There is no need to go back to another translation, nor is there a need to craft hastily another translation. The present missal is imperfect, I admit, but it is a monstrous step forward from the previous ICEL translation of 1970. It has many merits of its own accord, independent of comparison to other translations. Its texts & rhythms & beauty have nourished my young priesthood, and it is nourishing the faith of English speakers worldwide. Praise God, from Whom this blessing has flowed!
Editor’s Note : We thank Fr. Friel for another wonderful post. Regarding the “lack of consultation” myth—which Fr. Friel didn’t have time to address in this article—it’s worth pointing out that Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth has utterly repudiated this. He has publicly stated that each bishop remained free to consult whomever they wished throughout the process, and no restrictions whatsoever were placed upon them.