Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Is this prayer intelligible, proclaimable, reflective of a vocabulary and linguistic style from the contemporary mainstream of U.S. Catholics?

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Cathy of Alex, who blogs at Recovering Dissident Catholic, has been on a posting tear recently and she leads us off today with an article from the progressive America magazine by Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA. Bishop Trautman is the leader of those forces wanting to simplify the English language translation of the Mass so that American Catholics can understand it. The people of the wealthiest nation in the world just can't handle big words, he maintains.


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I decided to do a little analyzing of Bishop Trautman's writing style.

This is the first paragraph of his article:

This is a proclaimed prayer. What will the person in the pew hear and comprehend? Will the words “prefiguring sacrifices of the Fathers” and “born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin” resonate with John and Mary Catholic? Is this prayer intelligible, proclaimable, reflective of a vocabulary and linguistic style from the contemporary mainstream of U.S. Catholics? Is this liturgical language accessible to the average Catholic and our youth? Does this translated text lead to full, conscious and active participation? I think not.

Eliminating the third sentence, "Will the words. . .," I subjected the paragraph to a "Document Readibility" formula I found on the internet and received the following results.

Indication of the number of years of formal education that a person requires in order to easily understand the text on the first reading

Gunning Fog index : 12.23

Approximate representation of the U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the text :

Coleman Liau index : 11.26
Flesh Kincaid Grade level : 8.28
ARI (Automated Readability Index) : 7.17
SMOG : 10.75



A different paragraph from the same article:

What happened to the liturgical principles of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy? The Council Fathers of Vatican II stated: “Texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify. Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them with ease and to take part in them fully, actively and as it befits a community” (Article 21, CSL). Note the words “with ease.” This is the norm, the expressed wish of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. This is a prerequisite that calls for not just accuracy of translated texts but for the easy understanding of those texts.


Gunning Fog index : 12.08


Coleman Liau index : 10.22
Flesh Kincaid Grade level : 9.80
ARI (Automated Readability Index) : 9.93
SMOG : 12.22


Newspapers are written at the Sixth Grade level. Bishop Trautman himself doesn't even write English at that level. But the progressive Catholics who subscribe to America, a Jesuit publication, probably are smarter than average and know what is good for the average parishioner.

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