web analytics

The “New” Our Father

Two recent articles from New Zealand criticise different aspects of the new RC missal translation. NZ was the first country to introduce the new translation. In one article, a RC bishop is scathing in his critique (the bishop urges people to ignore some of the translation), the other regrets the loss of the ecumenical Lord’s Prayer.

I read an article by Pat Lythe (Leader of Parish and Pastoral Services Group in the Auckland Catholic Diocese) in a newspaper and a journal I subscribe to. As one who is saddened by this (and other) losses of ecumenical texts (and even offering the Vatican an alternative!) I asked if I could reproduce the article here. I’m pleased to have received that permission. Pat writes:

Where did the “new” Our Father come from? It certainly was not dreamed up by the New Zealand bishops, as indicated in “From the Back Pew” in your last issue. And it was a not a “disconnect” gesture from the church in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

The English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC) was formally established in Boston in 1985 .
It had been preceded by the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET). That group had been convened in 1969 by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). This group included the Catholic Church.

The program of ICEL was limited to the preparation of common liturgical texts translated into English for the Eucharist and other services of Christian worship. The project was carried out by specialists in pastoral liturgy, languages, and other disciplines who had been invited by the convening bodies to participate in meetings held in London. The results of ICET’s work were recommended to the Christian churches in the countries where English is spoken for common use in the liturgy. ICET’s program was completed in 1975 with the publication of a final, revised edition of the booklet Prayers We Have In Common. This common, ecumenical understanding was considered highly successful in view of the number of churches, which approved or adopted the proposed liturgical texts.

At the time of the congress of Societas Liturgica in Vienna in 1983, It was agreed by ICEL and CCT to convene a new organization similar in ecumenical purpose to ICET but with a more clearly defined membership and with broader goals of ecumenical-liturgical collaboration. The first formal organizational meeting of the English Language Liturgical Consultation was held in Boston in 1985, again at the time of Societas Liturgica’s biennial congress.

The ordinary group membership of ELLC was agreed to be the national or regional associations in which the respective churches or their liturgical committees or commissions come together on an ecumenical basis. Such associations appoint or otherwise designates their representatives and thus constitute the working body that is known as ELLC and that meets every second year. Regularly each of the national or regional associations includes churches of the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed (Presbyterian), Roman Catholic, and United traditions but is open to the Orthodox and other Eastern churches and to other (Christian traditions such as the Free Churches.

The “New” Our Father was one prayer which came out of this body, and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference agreed to introduce it in 1986 so that during Pope John Paul’s visit to New Zealand we could share an ecumenical version with other churches. It was a deliberate ecumenical gesture to reach out to other Christian churches. Many other countries and denominations, including Catholics also adopted this version of the prayer. It was a recognised internationally ecumenically agreed English version of the Lord’s prayer. However in New Zealand not many other denominations introduced it.

ICEL as one of the original conveners of both ICET and ELLC, was a full member of ELLC until 2001, when it had to withdraw following the publication of the Vatican Instruction, Liturgiam Authenticam which proscribed its involvement in ecumenical bodies. Although entirely Roman Catholic in its own membership and not constitutionally ecumenical, ICEL had participated in ecumenical undertaking from its inception in 1963. It was established by the national Catholic churches throughout the English speaking world and is a joint commission established by twenty six conferences of Catholic Bishops on behalf of those churches, a communion of more than 80 million English speaking Christian believers. Their withdrawal was accepted with great regret. In the meantime ELLC has continued to maintain formal and informal contacts with the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of Christian Unity, the Congregation for Divine Worship, and have exchanged information with ICEL itself.

We in this country were in the forefront of liturgical and ecumenical co-operation in the 80’s and 90’s. And now twenty-five years later, we have been told we are not to use this prayer in the “revised new Mass”, but we can still use it on other occasions.

What a disappointment and what a shame.

In the recent Tablet, Bishop Colin Campbell of Dunedin is strongly critical of the new missal translation. He writes about “big question marks over what is proposed and the process by which it came about.” He is clearly disappointed that, despite the way the process is intended to go, “what [the English-speaking bishops] finally voted for will not be the end product.”

He sought responses from people and says, “My intention is to collate the responses and include them in my diocesan ad limina report for Rome later this year.” He reports that 83% of comments were negative.

“The biggest complaint was reserved for the use of the word “men” in the Nicene Creed. One of our New Zealand bishops’ conference submissions to Rome on the text was for inclusiveness (not only in the Nicene Creed but also in the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer). This was not permitted by the Congregation for Divine Worship. Let us be clear about this. Christ died for all – not some, not many, but all. It is an embarrassment to our Catholic Church and its claim to inclusiveness. To persist with only saying “men” in the Creed is offensive and disparaging to our womenfolk who make up the majority of our faith family. There is also a blatant inconsistency when homines used in the Gloria is translated as “people” whereas the same word in the Nicene Creed is translated as “men”. This is a no-brainer. I hope that most of us will continue to pray in the Creed “for us and our salvation”.”

Full Tablet article.

Similar Posts:

12 thoughts on “The “New” Our Father”

  1. Bosco, would you please put up the text of the ‘new’ Our Father on your website? I have googled to try to find it but not sure if I have found the right one. Thank you.

    1. Our Father in heaven,
      hallowed be your name,
      your kingdom come,
      your will be done,
      on earth as in heaven.
      Give us today our daily bread.
      Forgive us our sins
      as we forgive those who sin against us.
      Save us from the time of trial
      and deliver us from evil.
      For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
      now and for ever. Amen.

  2. Thanks for sharing that article, Bosco. Most helpful and informative.

    One question it doesn’t address, of course, is whether this highly ecumenical text is worth saving for reasons beyond its ecumenical pedigree.

    Don’t get me wrong: there are many things I like about it! “Save us from the time of trial” is a great advance. On the other hand, was it altogether wise, for example, to borrow “sins” from Luke’s version of the prayer to render Matthew’s “debts” (otherwise a strong metaphor for sin in Jesus’ teaching, cf. Matt. 18:23ff)? I would almost say that “sins” is the most obscure word in a text intended a for modern readership…

    Those who produced this version will have known more about the issues involved than I (and I assume there’s a book on this translation somewhere…). But do many other cultural products of the “Me!” decade” honestly have enduring value today, especially those produced by committee?

    I begin to suspect that the great rush to produce ecumenical liturgical texts reflected the false hope that the main Christian denominations were at the point of a major convergence. (Think of the excitement and anticipation stoked by Michael Ramsey’s meeting with Paul VI.) Now I must sadly confess that our using the same translations is more like the wallpaper covering a widening crack in the masonry. If we ever attain the unity for which we long and pray, it will come about through a fundamental change in our core approaches to doctrine, authority, tradition, and scripture. And once that change has occurred, if it ever does, it won’t matter at all that we worship using different words. Indeed, our varied liturgical expressions of that deeply shared faith will be all the more delightful.

  3. The ‘newness’ of this version intrigues me, as it is of course the very version that has been printed in the Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia Anglican Prayer Book (and other national Anglican books) for 20 years, and in various publications for about 20 years before that.

    It was the only version we taught our kids when they were little,and all my children are in their 30’s now. When my son started school in England, in the days when ordinary schools there still had religious assemblies, he came home once and said, “Daddy, they use a different Lord’s Prayer at school.” “Oh yes? I said, “How does it go?”
    “Our Father is shut in heaven….”

  4. Reading these articles helps me understand why the Catholic church in NZ is dying a slow death.Now I understand why white kids are conspicuously absent from the pews.The sooner Dame Lythe and Bishop Campbell get a grip the better. Ecumenism is nonsense.It implies that Catholicism must be watered down to suit other denominations.Why are these ecumenical gatherings never held on non-catholic premises?
    The word “men” simply means mankind.The problem is that the Church in NZ is being led by “soft” men and feminists.Follow the Magisterium and return to orthodoxy and maybe our youth will search for Mystery and Majesty of the church.

    1. Thanks, Eugene, for your comment and perspective. I do not know why you think that ecumenical gatherings are always held on Roman Catholic premises. Ecumenism is one of the teachings of the Magisterium that you are advocating be followed. So I struggle to understand how in the same comment you can say it is nonsense as well as following the Magisterium. “Men” is certainly not a synonym for “mankind”. The possible drop in younger people being present in pews has a complex source and will not be easily “solved”. Blessings.

  5. From the articles that I have read,internationally,most are held on catholic premises.In the context of “for you and for all “men” so that sins may be Forgiven” does imply mankind.What else could it mean?
    Ecumenism is nonsense ,that is “makes no sense” if it means that Catholicism must be watered down to suit protestants.
    There is no “possible” drop.What I specifically referred to was the apparent absence of pakeha youth in church or do you not notice that?

    1. Eugene, it is not that difficult to work out what “for you and for all men” can mean in the context of those who understand the Last Supper, in which those words are said, as being an event with only men present. It is also difficult to understand why the same Latin word is translated as “people” in the Gloria. The Magisterium’s teaching on translation is that the a Latin word be translated consistently. [ps. I wonder how you understood my sentence about the Last Supper – do you see the gender mix of “only men” and “all men” as being different?] Blessings.

  6. We could go around and around in circles about this so I am going to stop right here and go back to the whole idea of “inclusiveness” as put forward and complained about by Lythe and Bishop Campbell.I have recited the Nicene creed in all of my life in different countries and so have my parents before me and their parents before them.We did not have a problem with it then and do not have a problem with it now.Interestingly enough,the same with the Lords Prayer.Only here in New Zealand did I encounter this somewhat strange version thereof.I taught my children the version that I knew to be “authentic” and lo and behold,we are back to saying it the way that I taught them.

  7. Geoffrey Miller

    Isn’t men an inclusive term for both males and females? I mean, you’d kind of have to be a complete moron to think that terms like mankind don’t refer to people with vaginas. I totally don’t get the inclusive language movement.

    What are you all going to do with languages like Spanish where every plural noun takes the masculine gender? The energy of feminism is best spent in concrete action, not rewriting the rules of scrabble.

    1. Thanks, Geoffrey.

      You are correct in your claim that you “totally don’t get the inclusive language movement.” No, “men” is not “an inclusive term for both males and females”. Try any of the following with people who speak English:

      I saw three men standing on the corner.
      This toilet is for men.
      God made two men and placed them in the Garden of Eden.

      As for what to do in Spanish, let’s leave that to those whose language it actually is. The Spanish I learnt is different to yours: a woman: una mujer (feminine article, feminine noun); the women: las mujeres (feminine article, feminine noun) – not, as you are suggesting los mujeres (masculine plural article, masculine plural noun).


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.