Friday, November 2, 2007


I'm sure many of you have read this lovely missive from a bevy of nuns that call themselves the "National Coalition of American Nuns" (RSCT to Argent, recipient of the Golden Snark Award - do we have one of those yet? - for humorous use of the title "NoCANdo"):

To Each U.S. Roman Catholic Bishop Regarding English Translations For The Liturgy

Dear Bishop, We are writing to you, each U.S. bishop, the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in regard to the new Vatican-ordered translation of the Liturgy. The Vatican-appointed translators have not produced a translation that is understandable to Catholics in the pews. We understand that, according to a 2005 poll of bishops, 47% of the U.S. bishops rated it "fair or poor". The media has reported that even some bishops are complaining that some texts contain "clunky and archaic language" (Screw the dang media! Haven't you been taught: Never trust the media?). For example, why would the words "consubstantial to the Father" be used in the Creed? What meaning do these words have for 21st century English speaking Catholics? Why use a medieval expression like, "We pray you bid" in the new Missal? This is not the way people speak today in the English-speaking world (Maybe not out in the streets; but what's spoken in the streets and what's spoken at Mass should be at the very least two different things). We need to follow the liturgical principles set forth in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council. Article 21 of that document states, "Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand them (texts and rites) with ease". The proposed text, "he who was born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin," is not easily understandable to Christian people, much less to the youth who are leaving the Church because of its irrelevancy (If anything, they're leaving the church because they've had it with being treated like complete dummies and being given the impression that Holy Mass is a WIFM - What's In-it For Me - affair!). Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, PA., chair of the U.S. Bishops Committee on the Liturgy, has said the proposed changes by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy are "not acceptable" (Do these nuns know that Bp. Trautman is very soon going to be replaced in the BCL by Bp. Serratelli, a Bishop who actually "gets it" about liturgy?). We agree (We don't). We ask you to make the translations appropriate, meaningful, and significant for today's Catholic (Oh, they are. You may not like the finished product, but the average "today's Catholic" will). Jeannine Gramick SL, Donna Quinn OP, Beth Rindler SFP For the Board of the National Coalition of American Nuns

BTW, yes, the letter is written just like this in the NoCANdo website - with absolutely no paragraph form whatsoever.

Argent also has this excellent reply, from the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, and it makes far better use of paragraphs.

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy respectfully asks the Bishops of the United States (USCCB) to disregard the recent letter from the National Coalition of American Nuns on Liturgical Translations. We totally disagree with their request to reject a literal and accurate English version of the 2000 Roman Missal based on the typical Latin text. It is our contention as ordained ministers who daily celebrate the sacred liturgy and who serve the spiritual needs of the faithful that they deserve nothing less than total and complete conformity to the authentic and official texts approved by the Holy See.

Since the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the ‘source and summit of Christian life’, it is imperative that the Church’s ministers celebrate digne, atténte ac devote (worthily, with attention and devotion). Reverence is achieved not only by diligently following the rubrics but also by having accurate texts which incorporate sacred language. Ritual (gestures) and Rite (words) make proper worship. Full, conscious and active participation by the faithful in the sacred liturgy is only possible when pedestrian language and banal translations are abandoned once and for all. The congregation is more educated and sophisticated than purported by those who insist accurate and literal translations from the Latin into English would be confusing at best and frustrating at worst.

We live in a culture where the vulgar, crass and obscene are part of everyday conversation. It proliferates the media at all levels: radio, television, movies, theater, magazines, and the internet. Yet, good taste and graceful language are not archaic. Sacred worship requires a sacred vocabulary and nomenclature which expresses the value and need for reverence for ‘the Holy’ and which transcends the secular world and allows the worshipper to approach the threshold of heaven. Accuracy demands that the word consubstantial be restored to the Creed since the Council of Nicea (325) canonized the terms homoouios (Greek) and consubstantialem (Latin). Adjectives which predicate the divinity of Christ, prominent in the Latin, need to be reinserted into the English. Holy, sacred, venerable, and immaculate, etc., are not foreign terms to Catholic vocabulary. Edified language inspires the believer to aspire to those things which are holy and sacred. Banal and pedestrian language lowers us into the gutter. One can and ought to seek a poetic sacred language that uplifts the human spirit to seek the divine rather than being content with the mediocrity of mundane.

These priests say it very well. Excellent letter, Fathers.

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