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By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jun 15, 2009

 Father Tom Reese is not happy. The American bishops have not been listening to him. 

At their June meeting the US bishops will vote on a new set of liturgical translations, which have been prepared by linguists operating on the novel theory that a translation should reflect what the original text says, rather than what a small group of liturgists think the text should say. Father Reese doesn't like that theory, and-- summoning all of his subtlety and dialectical skill-- describes it as a "stupid idea."


Father Reese wants other priests to treat their own diocesan bishops with the same sort of respect he shows for the episcopal conference. Thus: 

Not only are the translations bad, the poor parish priests are going to have to use these prayers and explain them to their people. Most priests are simply going to say, "The bishop says we have to do this, so don't blame me."

That's probably true, unfortunately. Taking their cues from the expert like Reese, thousands of parish priests will encourage their people to sneer at the new translations. Then the pundits will report that the translations are unpopular. 

But I wonder what would happen if the ordinary Catholics in the pews were left to respond for themselves, without cues from the clergy and the commentators. Would they be horrified to see that "We believe" has been corrected to "I believe?" Would they struggle over really hard words like "dew?" Father Tom Reese would like to know, but he concedes with disgust that the bishops are probably going to approve the new texts without waiting for the results of a 25-year survey process:

Market testing, beta sites, learning from experience and listening to the people are not part of the hierarchy's lexicon.

That's funny. I don't recall hearing about the need for market testing of the radical liturgical changes that followed Vatican II. I didn't read any editorials in America suggesting that ICEL should set up a "beta site" before saddling the long-suffering Catholic laity with the jarring translations we've endured for the past generation. It's remarkable how much one's perspective changes, when one moves from court to countryside.




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