Wednesday, 7 March 2012


In all the discussions regarding the new translation of the Missal, one item that frequently crops up is the discarded Missal of 1998.

What Fr Z calls 'bad old ICEL' worked very hard for several years to produce a new version of the Missal which went on to be approved by various episcopal conferences, but was then rejected in Rome.

Since the publication of our new 2011 Missal, many (especially on the Pray Tell site) have compared the 2011 version unfavourably to the unpublished 1998. Those who take this line usually have an advantage over mere mortals such as me, in that they have had experience, or at least sight of, the 1998 Missal, which has been kept as a jealously-guarded secret.
Some of the arguments go a bit like this:

Fred: I quite like the 2011 Missal.
Harry: Well you're clearly not a liturgist, Fred! Now, the Missal of 1998, which we spilt blood over, was far superior until some Dark Forces in Rome proved that they knew nothing about liturgy by rejecting it out of hand. All that work, binned!
Tom: Yes, Harry, you're right. What chance did we get to experiment with the 2011? We weren't even consulted, and we know about liturgy. The 1998 was tried out in all sorts of normative groups, ordinary parish situations, like the St Gregory Society, like the Bishops' Conference LGBT awareness Caucus. Every word was pored over, weighed, agonized over. And now this Mgr Moroney can sketch some ideas on the back of an envelope, and because he has friends among the Dark Forces, can have it imposed on the whole English-speaking world!
Fred: But I still like the 2011. It's a lot better than the 1975.
Harry: Hm; discuss. I don't agree; though I think that the 1975 certainly needed updating. It had far too much sexist language in it, and it is true that a lot of the imagery had been ironed out. That is just why the 1998 is so good.
Fred. I still like the 2011.
Tom: That's because you haven't seen the 1998. You are speaking out of ignorance. I have seen, used, the 1998, and it is simply wonderful. In fact, I was one of the writers.
Fred: Well, would you give me some examples?
Tom and Harry together: No!
Fred: No?
Harry: Certainly not! It is forbidden for non-initiates to see. You must simply take our word that it a much better translation. You must remain in ignorance until you are Enlightened by us.
Fred: Well, how do I become an initiate?
Tom: You have to become a Liturgist. You must go to music days, join the Society of St Gregory, write bitter letters to the press, join What If We Just Said No, take the oaths of secrecy.
and so on.

Well, all that changed for me this morning, because I found a link where you can download the whole 1998 Missal to your computer in pdf form. The veil of the temple has been torn, and all can see inside where, in my opinion, the Emperor is prancing around without many clothes on.

Don't get me wrong. Genuinely I can sympathize with those who worked for years on the 1998 Missal. It must have been galling and disheartening to have the thing rejected when so many had given it the green light.

But it really does belong to a different era. Essentially, the Ordinary is that of 1975 with some tweaks and corrections here and there. EP4 is substantially rewritten, and is actually quite nice, but the text strains painfully to be inclusive. There is an alternative version of the Our Father; the Lamb of God is substantially altered to make it match up to the frequently-used 'Communion-Song' style; quasi-litanic in form. In the rubrics, 'hostia' is rendered 'consecrated bread'; calix is 'cup' and 'patena' is 'plate':

The priest genuflects and takes some of the consecrated bread and the cup and,
extending them toward the people, says one of the following invitations:

After the completion of communion or after Mass, the deacon or another minister,
or, if there is no other minister, the priest, cleanses the plate over the cup and
then the cup itself, either at the side table or at the side of the altar.


Taking inspiration (I expect) from the Anglican liturgy, the acclamations after the Consecration have priestly lead-ins that differ according to which particular acclamation the celebrant wishes the congregation to use, losing in most cases the 'Mysterium Fidei' connection.

The collects aren't bad, actually, much better than 1975, and actually some of the ones I have looked at are preferable to the rather tortured ones in the 2011 Missal. You can find some side-by-side comparisons here, on the What If We Just Said Stuff The 2011 Missal site (useful; though it would have been more useful to have had the Latin alongside).

1998's texts and choices seem very much to come out of the Society of St Gregory school of liturgy. It really seemed, back in the 1990s, to be the way that liturgy was going, so the rejection of the Missal, and the publication of Liturgiam Authenticam must have seemed a real slap in the face. And you can see where comments such as 'Pope Benedict is not a liturgist' have come from.

I'm very glad to have been able to look at the 1998 Missal now. But if I had the choice, I have to say that I would stay with the 2011; our new translation isn't all joy for me—I do find it tortured from time to time, and sometimes inaccurate (simili modo, for instance, does not mean 'in a similar way' [though see the comments]), but in my view, on balance, it's much better than the 1998, and light years better than the 1975.


Joseph Shaw said...

I did a year's theology in the mid 1990s, and presumably because one of the Dominicans was on the commission a draft of the 1998 translation was laid out on the library table at Blackfriars (Oxford). I don't remember many details but I was struck by the rather self-satisfied tone of the commentary (they couldn't use one perfectly ordinary word, for instance, because it meant something rude in parts of the Australian outback or something), and the inclusive language.

I wasn't looking forward to its implementation! Well, we were spared.

Fr William said...

Good find! At a quick glance, the actual translation style seems quite good - when, that is, they manage to confine themselves to translating the Latin. But it suffers from a severe case of Common Worship-itis (they're from the same period, of course): umpteen options at every conceivable point, with a severe sense of many liturgical hands all striving to place their own stamp on the finished product. (And often so wordy: some of the "Alternative Opening Prayers" are three times the length of a normal collect, and feel like an attempt to squeeze an entire homily into one prayer. Common Worship's Prefaces, in particular, suffer from the same problem.)

The killer, though, is the drastic "inclusivisation", with studious avoidance of male pronouns in relation to God (e.g. the one change to the old ICEL Gloria being "peace to God's people on earth.)

monsignor said...

Dear Father!

Pray tell what "simili modo" exactly means, if the translation "in a similar way" is indeed inaccurate.

Pastor in Valle said...

Mgr: it just goes to show what taking someone's word for it does! I had been told that it meant 'in the same way' without any possible other interpretations. Your comment sent me scurrying away to my dictionary (where I should have gone in the first place) where I see that it can, indeed, bear the meaning 'similar' also. Apologies, and thank you for the correction.

Fr William said...

Father, as probably the guilty party here, I'm sorry if I led you astray. My argument is that to render "simili modo" as "in a similar way" is not only unidiomatic but positively misleading, and an example of what I think of as the "schoolboy translation" tendency of the new Missal (i.e. sticking so unnaturally closely to the structures and idioms of the original that the meaning actually gets obscured rather than expressed with clarity.) The natural and idiomatic way of rendering that phrase in English is "in the same way"; saying "a similar" rather than "the same" implies (as the Latin does not) that there is a degree of difference between the two things being compared.

Ttony said...

Father: I had thought that it was "in a similar way" rather than "the same way" because Our Lord didn't break the chalice. It's a way of saying mutatis mutandis, I guessed.

I still think it sounds as though written by someone a bit cloth-eared, but I hadn't doubted the literalness.

Matthew M said...

Thanks for providing the link. Just at a glance I would still describe it as 'That 70's Show' mentality of the English language. Of course, the New Translations are a vast if still imperfect improvement. Perhaps in another 10-15 years they will through in a few Tudor English stylisms.

Maureen said...

Shoud have stuck with the 1962 missal - Latin is so precise and it's quite beautiful.
Back to the Future.

Catholic Left-winger said...

Aye, but the priests celebrating the Masses according to the 1962 Missal weren't always beautiful or precise. We often blame the ritual when we should be looking at the one leading it.
I have attended stunningly beautiful vernacular Masses, sometimes the most simple ones.
On the whole, I prefer the new translation but struggle with the over-literalism and refusal to understand that the use of the conditional in Latin cannot be directly translated into English grammar where the use of different sentences would make more sense.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

The Anglicans borrowed it from ICEL ... there was a jolly game in the 1990s of Catholic 'liturgists' coming up with a Bright Idea; persuading Anglicans to accept it on the grounds that This Is What The Catholic Church is Going To Do; then going to Rome and saying You've Got To OK This Because It Is Ecumenically Agreed With The Anglicans.

Petrus said...

Yes, this is all very interesting, but what happened to the English translation approved by the old National Liturgical Commission ?

Was it consigned to the outer darkness when the ICEL translation was foisted on us ?

Was it, to coin a phrase, ever officially abrogated ?

Pastor in Valle said...

Petrus: my understanding is that it was legitimate until a couple of months ago, when the new translation became normative, replacing both the old ICEL and the NLC versions.

John F H H said...

simili modo
And what pray, is wrong with "likewise"?

After all, it has passed into one of well-known quotations of the English Language -
"Go, and do thou likewise".

Or was it just too...Cranmerian?

Kind regards,

John U.K.