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of our new 2011 Missal, many (especially on the Pray Tell site) have compared the 2011 version unfavourably to the unpublished 1998.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!
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.