Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

how language develops

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 07, 2006

Bishop Joseph Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania, has penned a fascinating explanation of the new Mass translation approved by the US bishops' conference. The key point, he argues, is "that there is nothing here over which to get upset."

Yup. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Put that envelope in that collection basket, and be careful in the parking lot when you leave.

The new translation was required, Bishop Adamec explains, because of the shifting usage of English. "Latin is much more precise, and it is that original text to which we Bishops must strive to be authentic as to the meaning and understanding." He adds, helpfully, that the new translations like "And with your spirit" are not novelties; they will be familiar to those who used a Latin-English missal in the old days.

True enough. But then how did we stumble across the inaccurate translations now in use?

Were the American Bishops wrong in adopting the translation of the Mass that we use today? No.

You saw that one coming, didn't you? American bishops-- excuse me, American Bishops-- do not make mistakes, although sometimes, due to sadly skewed media coverage, people with a less precise grasp of the facts might think they detect an error.

So when the new translation is put in place, will everything be hunky-dory? Ah, now don't move too quickly. There are nuances, you know:

Will Roman Catholics in the United States ever have to go through this again some day? It is most likely that they will. That is due simply to the fact that languages change.

Aha! We have been enlightened. Languages change. It's not the Latin that is changing, of course; it's the imprecise English.

Back in the 1950s, "Et cum spiritu tuo" meant "And with your spirit." That changed in the 1960s, and for a generation or so, it meant "And also with you." But now the English language has evolved its way back, and it means "And with your spirit again." Similarly, "Credo" meant "I believe," shifted to "We believe," and has now reverted to the old meaning.

Thank goodness that the American Bishops, so perceptive in noting the "signs of the times," have kept abreast of these changes in the English language. Funny thing is, the high-school Latin teachers never noticed.

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  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Jan. 12, 2011 3:37 AM ET USA

    God bless our Episcopalian brothers and sisters. They must be suffering. Please come home, we have a place for you.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jan. 04, 2011 11:29 AM ET USA

    Are there any Episcopalians left who are not scandalized by this?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 04, 2011 8:32 AM ET USA

    Man the lifeboats! Get ready for a new wave of swimmers across the Tiber...