OR A NUMBER OF YEARS, Collegeville Liturgical Press has sponsored three blogs: (1) PRAYTELL; (2) ROCK & THEOLOGY; and (3) RAIDS ACROSS COLOR LINES. Their Rock blog was discontinued, but the others are still going strong. On 30 October 2015, PrayTell published an article about formal vs. dynamic equivalence. 1
The author, Paul Inwood, had begun to ponder the concept of translating from one language to another. Inwood quickly discovered what every good translator knows: we must translate ideas not individual words. For example, many languages ask (literally) “how many years have you” whereas we would ask, “How old are you?” 2
For a long time, the “progressive” camp has argued that dynamic equivalence is good and formal equivalence is bad. This silly view must be discarded. All good translations employ a mixture of both. Indeed, Liturgiam Authenticam says: “Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet.”
Dynamic equivalence is not “liberal.” Formal equivalence is not “conservative.” Fr. Adrian Fortescue and Msgr. Ronald Knox—truly legendary priests—were famous for their use of dynamic equivalence, and occasionally went to great lengths avoiding cognates. (Translations by Knox can seem funky/dated because he sometimes went overboard with dynamic equivalence.)
Collegeville made a huge mistake by publishing this article. Mr. Inwood was trying to say that dynamic equivalence does not distort the true meaning. Yet, this same Paul Inwood wrote:
Seventh-century theology, spirituality, and culture are very far from where most of the Church is now. The 1973 translation concealed this fact from us. If we had known what the prayers really said, we would not have wanted to pray them any longer. Now we are faced with that question 40 years later, and it is not any easier.
Dr. Peter Jeffery, a Benedictine Oblate of Collegeville, does not like LITURGIAM AUTHENTICAM, and is cited by Inwood. 3 However, I doubt Dr. Jeffery would be willing to question its fruits:
There will always be disputes about liturgical translation. One thing, however, is incontrovertible: the “grass roots revolution” against the new translation—something ardently & publicly hoped for by PrayTell over a period of years—did not occur. The fact that so many millions of Catholics in the USA, Canada, Britain, South Africa, Singapore, the Philippines, and so forth accepted this new translation was due in large part to the efforts of Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, the wise and joyful executive director of ICEL. 4
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 The blog moderator, Fr. Anthony Ruff, is known for blocking most (not all) comments which advocate “conservative” views, and he’s certainly within his rights to ban opposing views. Unfortunately, PrayTell occasionally deletes entire articles—even those with numerous comments—if they are discovered to be inaccurate. For this reason, I provide a screenshot. The Collegeville blogs are listed at the bottom.
2 Mr. Inwood, however, seems not to realize that French is exceptional in this regard—especially regarding technology nomenclature—and may wish to google «Académie française».
3 I personally believe LITURGIAM AUTHENTICAM to be quite beautiful, especially passages such as: “If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities.”
4 Needless to say, out of so many millions there will always be a few who complain.