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autocratic auto-correct: sanitized for your protection

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 26, 2006

"Know that the LORD is God," reads Psalm 100:3f, "he made us and we are his, his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, his courts with praise." Sound alright? It should: that's the literal RSV translation. Note that there are six masculine references to God, not counting the token-word LORD for the divine name. The U.S. bishops' 1991 translation (RNAB) feeds it through their standard de-gendering software: "Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock. Enter the temple gates with praise, its courts with thanksgiving." Bingo: all six masculine references are zapped into non-existence, with no harm except to the original text.

To men so trained, God's revelation was a pretty slip-shod affair, and stands in dire need of improvement. God's Church, moreover, faithfully transmits some of the Bible's greatest blunders in her liturgy, falling short in several respects of the guidelines stipulated by the Task Force on Bias-Free Language of the Association of American University Presses. Hence they see "translation" -- whether biblical or liturgical -- as first and foremost an opportunity for correction.

The Holy See and the U.S. Bishops' Committee of the Liturgy are at loggerheads. Cardinal Arinze has insisted that the text to be translated already reflects the desired renewal and stands in no need of a makeover. The BCL's chairman Bishop Trautman maintains he can, and should, find the better liturgy that exists somehow behind and beyond the Latin text and turn that into English for our benefit.

They can't both be right. And neither is backing down. In a recent statement, Trautman chose to treat Arinze's latest communication as a mere suggestion, saying that it "offers additional input for the deliberation of the bishops." I detect an equivocation -- or better, perhaps, the influence of God's well-tended macro.

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Show 27 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - May. 27, 2006 6:03 PM ET USA

    Am I reading this right, the US Bishops' committee is preferring to listen to the Now groups rather than to the Pope???

  • Posted by: benedictusoblatus - May. 27, 2006 1:37 PM ET USA

    Rome has noone to thank but themselves. What genius came up with the idea of giving the duty of translating the Mass to the bishops in the region where it is subsequently used? Outside of abandoning Latin as the liturgical language, I can't think of a better way to ensure insularity and parochialism in the Church. The Vatican needs to translate important Church documents, not a group of American bishops who may not even know how to read Latin much less translate it.

  • Posted by: Cupertino - May. 27, 2006 8:34 AM ET USA

    The correct translation of the good Bishop's name is "Trautperson." (First pointed out to us in "First Things" by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus.)

  • Posted by: Gentle Bill - May. 27, 2006 7:40 AM ET USA

    My objection to Trautman is that he refuses to acknowledge the inconsistencies and contradictions in his polemic positions, and I attribute this to the human failing of pride. He is enamored of his own intellect. I attempted to engage him a while back on the subject of liturgical music; he ignored my first approach, and when I sent a second letter, he answered me, but ignored all of the issues I raised. Subsequent attempts to engage him were predictably ignored.

  • Posted by: - May. 27, 2006 7:28 AM ET USA

    As I've pointed out before, Trautman is a dissembler/liar par excellence, with an ego that makes one thank the Lord he is nothing more than the bishop of the Erie, PA diocese. You're really flattering him by giving such credence to his disordered thoughts.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - May. 27, 2006 12:12 AM ET USA

    Dear wvcath: could not a "literal" translation be other then you suggested w/your strict example. It seems that, in this sense, a literal translation can be one in accordance with, or upholding the exact or primary meaning of a word or words. Thanks be to God, the Church has the charism to hand down to us that which was written in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, or whatever; conveying to us what God intended for us to hear in whatever our native tongue may be.

  • Posted by: Italiana - May. 26, 2006 11:27 PM ET USA

    Know that the Bishops think they are God.

  • Posted by: Art Kelly - May. 26, 2006 11:24 PM ET USA

    If Bishop Trautman refuses to provide a translation acceptable to Rome, than the Vatican should translate the texts themselves into English and then issue an order saying THIS is what you will use and nothing else. At the same time, Bishop Trautman and others of his ilk should be relieved of their dioceses and sent to a remote monestaries in third world countries.

  • Posted by: wvcatholic - May. 26, 2006 9:48 PM ET USA

    Tomecom, You are correct. Due to the limited space I could not go through the complete lineage of the translation and jumped all the way to the English. Based on our Marian theology, there are very sound reasons for translating this as "she". The evidence seems to show that St. Jerome made this choice based on a theological interpretation of the text rather than on a literal translation. The point is that "translation as an opportunity for correction" is nothing new for the Church.

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2006 8:36 PM ET USA

    "Masculine takes precedence over feminine"? Why heresy of heresies! You rude, mean sexist! You're such a...such a...MAN! Excuse me while I go to the corner and have a hissy fit.

  • Posted by: Michaelus - May. 26, 2006 8:06 PM ET USA

    RE Genesis 3:15 - I bet Jerome's Septuagint had the feminine so he just used the feminine - and the Douay translation has a foot note explaining that it could be wither masculine or feminine but the meaning - i.e. that Mary's son Jesus would rush the serpent - is the same.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - May. 26, 2006 7:53 PM ET USA

    Re: Trautman, Dark, cold monastery here I come Right back where I started from no need to get me down when I concelebrate they have a clown. Sung to the theme of "Welcome Back Kotter"

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - May. 26, 2006 7:51 PM ET USA

    "A few months ago, the liturgistas were telling us that Latin relative clauses sound artificial when translated into English relative clauses." That's a brilliant argument. If true, then that supports the position that the homilies should only be delivered in Latin (the original language of the Church) to avoid polluting it via an artificial vernacular translation. Bring on the punting unit.

  • Posted by: RC - May. 26, 2006 6:53 PM ET USA

    Know that the LORD is God, our maker to whom we belong, whose people we are, God's well-tended flock. A few months ago, the liturgistas were telling us that Latin relative clauses sound artificial when translated into English relative clauses. Apparently, though, there is something worse than the pronoun whom: the even more dreaded pronoun he!

  • Posted by: major - May. 26, 2006 6:09 PM ET USA

    What level of the food chain does Bishop Tautman, and his abettors, think they are on?

  • Posted by: snowbird - May. 26, 2006 6:05 PM ET USA

    Drop into your local parish where a prpoper translation is read, or, into one of the Orthodox churches in your neighborhood. There, you will hear the scriptures proclaimed in the manner we once revered as "Sacred Scripture" with no politics, feminisits or arrogant young clergy involved. I did. It was a refreshing experience - to my soul.

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2006 5:28 PM ET USA

    For their own well being, the USCCB would be wise to discipline Trautman. Can we hope that the Vatican is fed up with their disobedience and is getting ready to lower the boom. My vote goes to Cardinal Arinze.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - May. 26, 2006 5:04 PM ET USA

    "Who will win this dialogue?" the reader asks. Indeed, one suspects that there is not a critical mass yet of bishops in the U.S. for orthodox and inspirational translations according to the "spirit" and letter of LA. If not, then the pusillanimous bishops will vote with Trautman and send a bowdlerized text to Rome. The latter, we would hope, would send within a couple of weeks a determined slap in the face and "fix it now." We've been waiting too long!

  • Posted by: Eusebuis1 - May. 26, 2006 5:04 PM ET USA

    If Cardinal McCarrick and the "in-group" of the USCCB could distort the opinion of Cardinal Ratzinger re pro-abortion politicians receiving the eucharist, why can't Bishop Trautman distort the strongly worded language from Bishop Arinze? Another reason for Pope Benedict to appoint bishops that are orthodox Roman Catholics and not the priests sponsored by the USCCB leadership.

  • Posted by: JW - May. 26, 2006 4:42 PM ET USA

    wvcatholic, my understanding is that the Douay-Rheims translated it as feminine because the Vulgate has it in the feminine, and the Douay is a translation from the Vulgate, not the original Hebrew. So St. Jerome made the original shift from masculine to feminine. Why? We'll never know. Perhaps he, being closer in time to the apostolic era, had insights we lack? Certainly modern translations directly from Hebrew have it in the masculine.

  • Posted by: wvcatholic - May. 26, 2006 4:07 PM ET USA

    There is a history of "theologically" based translations in the Church. See Gen 3:15, translated in the Douay-Rhemis as "she shall crush thy head." However, the Hebrew verb has the 3rd masc sing imperfect prefix (yod) and is translated in every other version with the masculine (e.g. "he shall bruise your head" in the RSV). We can either conclude that the Douay-Rheims is in error, or that it is sometimes licit to translate a masculine pronomial subject as a feminine as the occasion demands..

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2006 3:07 PM ET USA

    From the preface to the Confraternity Version of the NT: “There can be no graver crime than the least corruption of that eternal truth which Christ has brought us. The Church is, therefore, watchful over Holy Scripture; and not only over its message, but likewise over its written translation.” The esteemed author of that statement obviously never anticipated the coming of a bishop the likes of the “excellent” Don Trautman.

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2006 2:46 PM ET USA

    Apparently they not only choose to translate 'man' as 'person' but 'no' as 'maybe'.

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2006 2:34 PM ET USA

    In English grammar masculine takes precedence over feminine when a group is mixed gender. The specific pronoun when the group is one or the other. Trautman needs to go back to school. Trautman also needs to submit to the Pope's wishes on this matter. Does he desire to lead the US Churches into schism? The bishops who think like him might be shocked to find themselves abandoned bt the faithful.

  • Posted by: wvcatholic - May. 26, 2006 2:24 PM ET USA

    No, if you want a literal translation it is "Know that YHWH itself God it do us, and not and to it we its people its tribe its flock a pasture." Any translation into another language is an interpretation of the original Hebrew.

  • Posted by: Coemgen - May. 26, 2006 1:50 PM ET USA

    OK, I clicked the "Trautman, Non-gendered, Relativity Compromise" button on the latest edition of the liturgical correction software. "Know that the LORD is God, it made us and we are its, its people, and the sheep of its pasture. Enter its gates with thanksgiving, its courts with praise." What a beautiful image of God! So... personal.

  • Posted by: - May. 26, 2006 1:39 PM ET USA

    Trautman would like to dialogue (note use of noun as verb) with Cardinal Arinze over Arinze's "input." Translaction from USCCB-speak: Trautman would like Arinze to butt out and back off. Who do you suppose will win this "dialogue"?

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