Friday, May 11, 2007

Bishop Trautman of Erie Still Fights For Dumbed Down English in the Liturgy

From Rocco at Whispers in the Loggia
Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA, head of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, whose death was incorrectly reported (perhaps wishfully?) by L'Osservatore Romano a few weeks ago has been in the vanguard of those fighting the Vatican and the Pope who want the English translation of the Liturgy to be faithful to the Latin original. The Bishop apparently wants the translation to be understandable to Catholics with fourth grade reading comprehension.

The chair of the US bishops' Committee on the Liturgy and (concurrently) first critic of the Holy See's increased interest in the mechanics of English-language worship over recent years, Trautman -- who already released one such prominent critique this year in the pages of The Tablet -- launches his most blistering salvo to date on the revised renderings of the Roman Missal in tomorrow's edition of America.

Here's but a sampling:
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,” for example, resonate with John and Mary Catholic? [How 'bout Juan and Maria, for that matter, too?] Is this prayer intelligible, proclaimable, reflective of a vocabulary and linguistic style from the contemporary mainstream of U.S. Catholics? [All contemporary Catholics, or just the 50% or so who bother to go to Church?] Is the liturgical language accessible to the average Catholic and our youth? Does this translated text lead to full, conscious and active participation? [Are there Liturgical Dance instructions in the G.I.R.M?] I think not.

This prayer is not an isolated example. While the latest ICEL [International Commission on English in the Liturgy.] translations for the proper of the saints and the commons are improved, we still encounter the following: “O God, who suffused blessed John with the spirit of mercy” (Collect for March 8) and “Cyril, an unvanquished champion of the divine motherhood” (Collect for June 27) and odd expressions like “What you have charged us to believe will taste sweet to the heart” (Collect for April 21). Does the heart “taste?”

All liturgy is pastoral. If translated texts are to be the authentic prayer of the people, they must be owned by the people and expressed in the contemporary language of their culture. [Do the "people" get to vote? How 'bout voting for bishops?] To what extent are the new prayers of the Missal truly pastoral? Do these new texts communicate in the living language of the worshiping assembly?... [Is this "worshiping assembly" the one that is addicted to "The Simpsons", "The Sopranos" and "American Idol" or the one that is found in Perpetual Adoration Chapels once or more a week?]

Will the priest and people understand the words of Eucharistic Prayer 2: “Make holy these gifts, we pray, by the dew of your Spirit”? [He has this obsession that American Catholics will leave in droves when confronted with the three letter word, "dew."] This translation was among the top 10 texts that the U.S. bishops in their consultation considered most problematic, but still ICEL did not change it.

In the new missal you will hear awkward phrases like “We pray you bid.” [Also you find there "Our Father, Who art in Heaven" and "Hail Mary, full of grace"] This is not American English. Ponder these concrete examples and judge for yourself.

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; the 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” (No. 21). Note the words “with ease.” This is the norm, the expressed wish in the constitution. This is a prerequisite that calls not just for the accuracy of translated texts but for the easy understanding of those texts.....

[Let's see; how 'bout: "Dad in Heaven, you are holy; long live your rule; we will obey your laws on earth and in Heaven; give us our food, forgive our mistakes when we forgive people who hurt us, don't be a bad example for us and protect us from bad people. I guess that's about it." That should be clear enough for the fourth graders in the pew.]

Liturgical translations must communicate. If liturgical language is divorced from the reality of culture, communication is impossible. [Boy, that's a lot of four and five syllable words. And just what does "liturgical" mean, any?]

What is missing in the present moment, unfortunately, is the voice of liturgical scholars and the voice of the laity, the assembly.

If the language of the liturgy is inaccessible, how can liturgy catechize and convey the reality of the living, risen Son of God in the Eucharist? If the language of the liturgy is a stumbling block to intelligibility and proclaimability, then the principle lex orandi, lex credendi is severely compromised. If the language of the liturgy does not communicate, how can people fall in love with the greatest gift of God, the Eucharist?

[Speaking as one from the pew, up near the Pharisees, I wonder why we send priests to school for 8 or more years of study of Philosophy and Theology? Do you suppose it might be so that they can impart to us "intelligibility and proclaimability?"]

Church of God, judge for yourselves. Speak up, speak up! [Woof, Woof!]


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Ray: LOL!

Hey, wait a minute, you have become one with the Pharisees? What happened?

Adoro said...

He obviously thinks the average Catholic is an idiot.

Maybe the average Catholic only APPEARS to be idiotic because Bishops such as he could not be bothered to instruct the faithful appropriately...which creates a bunch of people who don't know what's going on. The reality is that they won't notice the wording because they don't understand the mass anyway and just go because they claim to be Catholic.

Those who are informed Catholics by the grace of God will understand, and they can also help everyone else, including the Bishop, to understand what's happening at Mass.. It seems he might otherwise lose his way.

Oh...was that snarky?

Anonymous said...

On learning English, some famous French guy once said (something like) "But English is 80% French, just badly pronounced". My point? I find that ordinary French people use a vocabulary much richer than mine (when they are not using slang that is). I assume that the French translation would contain much of this richness that the Bishop wants to reject. By romance language association, surely this point would apply to the Spanish translation? If so, it would make the Bishop's dumbing down puting the ordinary English speaker way behind the other Latin based languages. A final point, when I explain certain words and phrases in the Liturgy and Bible to my 6 and 10yr old, they are quite comfortable with the idea of learning a "new" language - after all they are still learning "new" words all the time. The idea that a word can mean so much actually appeals to them - clearly less words, less boring, more to ponder and reflect on for the rest of your life, therefore greater depth and richness in worship. In addition, when I explain as motivation that worshiping God does not have to be in ordinary every day language and musical instruments, my children have once again accepted that the Organ is not old and boring and in fact that guitar/keyboards are clearly entertainment. We are blessed with an excellent organist, a music student from Mexico studying at the Sorbonne (I do admit to enjoying accoustic guitar at mass, once in a while, but notice that in general the musicians are quite distracted - and yes I noticed because I was distracted too).

Unknown said...

Thanks, Anon.:

I particularly like your distinction of having a "special" language when referring to God and things liturgical.