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well ... not so fast

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 31, 2004

The NCR's Word from Rome includes a note on the forthcoming translation of the Roman Missal, focused on the controversy surrounding the words of consecration of the chalice: ought we translate "It will be shed for you and for all," or "for you and for many"?:

Rendering the Latin phrase pro multis as "for all" has long been Exhibit A in the traditionalist case against the English translation of the Mass following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Not only is it a loose translation, these critics insist, it flirts with heresy by suggesting that all human beings will be saved regardless of their moral choices or religious affiliation.

John Allen -- a generally balanced and trustworthy reporter -- goes on to make the following observation:

John Paul II has never declared himself explicitly on this issue, but one may glimpse his thinking in the recent encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. When the pope refers to the words of institution, he uses the phrase "for all" rather than "for many." Most notably, this phrase appears not merely in the modern languages, but even in the Latin version, where the text reads: hic calix novum aeternumque testamentum est in sanguine meo, qui pro vobis funditur et pro omnibus in remissionem peccatorum.

Hence we have a further instance where, despite media stereotypes of a "conservative pope," some staunch Catholic conservatives actually feel dismayed by John Paul's "liberal" instincts.

A fair point. The problem is, it's not true.

Allen correctly, and understandably, gives us the Latin text as posted on the Vatican website. But the authoritative text of any encyclical is the final and definitive text printed in the Holy See's official publication, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and the pertinent passage (para. 2) of Ecclesia de Eucharistia quoted by Allen has been corrected in AAS to read pro multis instead of pro omnibus (AAS, v.95, 7 July 2003, p. 434). Somebody in the Holy See, clearly, has been paying attention -- and if the emendator was not the Pope himself, it was someone with whom he agreed, definitively. If we're going to use this encyclical as a window into the mind of John Paul II, the words to be reckoned with are unarguably pro multis.

A footnote: Allen is correct that most of the translations of Ecclesia de Eucharistia (based on their on-line versions) use the equivalent of "for all." One of the two modern language exceptions is the Polish translation, where we have za wielu, "for many." It proves nothing, but the fact that "for all" does not appear in the Pope's mother tongue is an oblique indication that there are limits to his liberal instincts.

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Show 9 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2004 9:57 PM ET USA

    The effect of Christ shedding His blood on the Cross was sufficient for all but it would be wasted on those who chose not to believe. Therefore His Blood was shed for the many for those who believe in His name who accept Jesus as the second person of the Blessed Trinity

  • Posted by: AveMaria580 - Feb. 02, 2004 7:00 PM ET USA

    There may be some with an impediment. Maybe even "many." It's difficult to believe that "all" are working with an impediment. An observation from my six short years as a Catholic: the most widespread impediment I seem to encounter is culpable ignorance. If the "for all" is intended to connote unversalism, it's a dangerous teaching especially for baptized Catholics. C.S. Lewis wrote, I think he was quoting someone, "Lilies that fester smell worse than weeds." Rotten wheat will burn with weeds

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Feb. 02, 2004 6:41 PM ET USA

    I can tell that you don't like Hell, Pseudo. Neither do I, but...JP

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Feb. 02, 2004 9:51 AM ET USA

    "It is Janseism to believe that even the Blood of Christ can save anyone apart from their free will." Quite correct; however, you are assuming that everyone on this earth is acting without impediment in this life; that only Our Lord knows for sure.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Feb. 02, 2004 9:50 AM ET USA

    I believe the "for many" and "for all" distinction is important and not merely the splitting of hairs. Our Lord did speak of Truth being a Sword, rather than a small pair of pruning shears. It was Aristotle who said that small errors in the beginning, end up in large errors in the end. There is a significant difference; of infinite moment as it were, in the distinction between the baptized and the baptized faithful; emphasis on faithful.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Feb. 01, 2004 11:24 PM ET USA

    Karen, Perhaps the "for all" connotes universalism, whereas the "for many" connotes merely the Hope that all may be saved.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jan. 31, 2004 10:52 PM ET USA

    "All" of whom...and "all" in what context. Diogenes? Stop splitting hairs and giving everyone an acid stomach! Human language is a very fluid thing. The essential teaching rermains the same in any case. It is Janseism to believe that even the Blood of Christ can save anyone apart from their free will. Karen is right.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jan. 31, 2004 7:07 PM ET USA

    For me, the interesting question is how after 15 centuries this prayer changed "pro multis" the Latin changed to "pro omnibus". It's one thing for the ICEL to play games with the English translations but another thing for persons unknown to change the source text. It may seem like a Catholic obsession, but if we "correct" this today, does that mean the prayer was "incorrect" for all these centuries?

  • Posted by: AveMaria580 - Jan. 31, 2004 4:57 PM ET USA

    I'm somewhat confused about this. I thought that Jesus blood was shed for all. However, whether or not the sacrifice is efficacious for an individual depends on the individual's choices. Christ's blood was shed for all but that doesn't mean that all accept the sacrifice and receive the grace and forgiveness of it. Maybe it's my protestant bringing but I don't understand the problem the "for all" translation seems to create.

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