Instructional resources to help people move into the new English translation of the Roman Missal were to have been available in February. The hope is still to launch the new translation on the first Sunday in Advent this year, but the instruction resources may not be out until next month, and the launch may be delayed into next year.

In the three months since Michael Ryan’s article “What If We Said, ‘Wait’?, the associated petition, What if we just said wait? has been signed by 19,849 people. In the recent NZ Catholic, Bishop Denis Browne describes the petition, signed by NZ priests, religious, and the principal of a Catholic secondary school, “not helpful”. A counter-petition We’ve waited long enough has 4,804 signatures.

Many are unaware that in the mid 1980s translation work began which produced a new English translation in 1998. This 1998 Missal was approved by all the English-speaking conferences of bishops, mostly unanimously. It was rejected by the Vatican. The story is told by Bishop Maurice Taylor, the Bishop Emeritus of Galloway, who was chairman from 1997 to 2002 of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) in It’s the Eucharist, Thank God. You can also read about it in an article by John Wilkins’ Lost in Translation: the bishops, the Vatican & the English Liturgy published in Commonweal in 2005.

As a lover of the traditional collects/opening prayers, the current ICEL English translations are thin and people visiting this site are regularly surprised when I highlight that Catholics and Anglicans are actually praying different translations of the same Latin prayer. I look forward to improved translations of the collects. Anyone who knows of the 1998 Missal online, please place the URL in the comments. If the 1998 Missal is for sale anywhere, please let us know where in the comments.

I am greatly saddened by the loss of ecumenically agreed texts. I have seen no other commentator lament this loss. With it will also be lost all the musical settings used for the Mass, both those unique to the Roman Catholic Church and those musical settings shared ecumenically.

Finally, I was intrigued by Fr. Paul Turner writing in a recent Tablet about his trialing some of the new texts. Especially by the reaction of the teenagers, “They giggled at the word ‘consubstantial’. They thought the word ‘man’ was offensive. They thought that saying they ‘confess one Baptism’ sounded like Baptism was a sin. They resented the revised Confiteor that tried to make them feel guiltier than they were before. The expression ‘And with your spirit’ sounded weird to them. On reading the revised Sanctus, one thought ‘Lord God of hosts’ referred to the real presence of Christ in the Communion wafers.”

The “What if we said wait?” movement has:

We are very concerned about the proposed new translations of the Roman Missal. We believe that simply imposing them on our people — even after a program of preparation — will have an adverse effect on their prayer and cause serious division in our communities.

We are convinced that adopting translations that are highly controversial, and which leaders among our bishops as well as many highly respected liturgists and linguists consider to be seriously flawed, will be a grave mistake.

For this reason we earnestly implore the bishops of the English-speaking world to undertake a pilot program by which the new translations — after a careful program of catechesis — can be introduced into some carefully selected parishes and communities throughout the English-speaking world for a period of one (liturgical) year, after which they can be objectively evaluated.

We are convinced that this approach will address the concerns of those many bishops who feel that they have lost their voice in this matter and that it will also give a voice to the People of God whose prayer is at stake and who accordingly have the most to gain or lose by the translations.

We realize that a pilot project of this kind is unprecedented, but so is the process by which these translations have been approved.

When they say “unprecedented”, I’m presuming they mean “in Roman Catholicism” – certainly such ideas, I would have thought, are not unprecedented elsewhere.

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