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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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