Assessing the New Missal Translation

After more than a year of objection and resistance from English-speaking Catholics, including several bishops and many liturgists and translators, in Advent 2011 the Vatican imposed its new translation of the Missal for regions where English is the predominant language.

Here’s a compendium of reflections published in preparation for the new translation:

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, in an open letter to U.S. bishops published in America magazine, spoke of how he could not continue his work promoting the new translation. (Click here to read the entire letter.) Fr. Ruff, a professor of liturgy and Gregorian chant, was on the committee that prepared a draft document for the USCCB in 2007 on the use of music during worship services. His conclusions: “With a heavy heart, I have recently made a difficult decision concerning the new English missal. I have decided to withdraw from all my upcoming speaking engagements on the Roman Missal in dioceses across the United States. After talking with my confessor and much prayer, I have concluded that I cannot promote the new missal translation with integrity. I’m sure bishops want a speaker who can put the new missal in a positive light, and that would require me to say things I do not believe.”

Liturgy Training Publications and OCP (Oregon Catholic Press), which both sell music, worship aids, and related services, have a variety of resources and descriptions on their web sites.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has several web pages devoted to the changes, including one that provides a side-by-side comparison with commentaries on the old versus new language, and another that gives you a printable PDF of the changes in the words the people say.

An article in Commonweal magazine summarizes many of the concerns about the awkward translations, and a blog post by Jesuit Bernard Lee explores the difference between “literal” and “literary” language.

You can watch a video by another Jesuit, John Baldovin, who describes the history of various translations (fair warning: it’s mostly a “talking head” experience).

You also may find interesting some observations by David Haas, a noted composer of liturgical music who is well-known as a conference and workshop speaker, consultant, concert performer, and recording artist.