Challenge Grant: Our Boosters will match donations up to $45,000. We have $37,094 to go. Please donate!
Click here to advertise on

lost in translation

By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 05, 2009

In his internet chat during the annual Religious Education Congress-- you know, that one-- Cardinal Roger Mahony was asked for his thoughts on the Tridentine Mass. His answer:

Ann: The Tridentine Mass was meant for those who could not make the transition from Latin to English [or other languages] after the Council. But there is no participation by the people, and I don't believe that instills the spirit of Christ among us.

Let's take that answer one phrase at a time:

The Tridentine Mass...

Pope Benedict prefers to speak of the "extraordinary form," to convey the message that this is a fully authorized form of the Roman ritual. Cardinal Mahony could have mentioned a reference to the "Tridentine" rite is a bit outmoded; he could even have used "the extraordinary form" himself, without making a point of it. He didn't.

...was meant for...

What was the Tridentine Mass "meant for" prior to the Council? There was a reason-- or rather a large number of reasons-- for the use of that ritual over the centuries. Did those reasons disappear in the 1960s? 

...those who could not make the transition from Latin to English [or other languages] after the Council.

Find a church were the extraordinary form is used, and you'll notice that there are young people in the congregation. If a 20-year-old prefers the extraordinary form, it's not because he failed to make a "transition" after the Council; at the time of transition he wasn't yet alive. Since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum many Catholics have become acquainted with the Latin Mass for the first time; the only "transition" in their lives has been from English to Latin, not in the other direction.

But there is no participation by the people,...

Complaints about a lack of "active participation" are frequently leveled against the older ritual. But the cardinal goes further, saying that there is no lay participation. The people in the pews are doing absolutely nothing, then? That's an astonishing statement! The cardinal is advancing the insulting and thoroughly un-Catholic notion that if someone is quietly, prayerfully recollected-- not dancing in the aisles, not playing the guitar, not serving as a 'minister of greeting'-- he can't be participating in the Sacrifice. 

...and I don't believe that instills the spirit of Christ among us.

Does the extraordinary form allow for a valid Mass? Does Jesus Christ become physically present on the altar? If so, then the cardinal's statement here is nonsense; of course this Sacrifice instills the Spirit in the faithful. If not, then the Church was deprived of the Eucharist for centuries-- in which case the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be. So we have a choice to make here: Either Cardinal Mahony is speaking nonsense, or the Church is speaking nonsense. And if the Church is all nonsense, why listen to a cardinal anyway?  

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($125,623 to go):
$150,000.00 $24,377.05
84% 16%
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

There are no comments yet for this item.

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on

Recent Catholic Commentary

The Pope is not the problem 12 hours ago
Do not confuse sacramental discipline and Catholic doctrine. 14 hours ago
Ignatius Press into the Breach: Trumping the Kasper Proposal October 22
Has the Vatican finally discovered how to avoid inaccurate English translations? October 22
The Synod: It's a Wrap! October 21

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Key synod report calls for 'gradualism' in Church response to irregular family situations CWN - October 13
As synod concludes, bishops issue message, approve document; Pope weighs in CWN - October 20
Cardinal Parolin: UN must protect innocents from Islamic State CWN - September 30
Synod of Bishops opens with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica CWN - October 6