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ICEL Agonistes

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 08, 2003

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The Telegraph's Christopher Howse on liturgical language:

A new eruption of feeling has spilled its emotional lava over an agreement between the Vatican and the committees responsible for liturgical language for English-speaking Catholics. The Vatican had sat heavily on a draft for a new translation of the Roman Missal, chiefly on the grounds that it was not really a translation but a new composition, of a displeasing kind.

Part of the row involved "inclusive language" - avoiding saying "he" when a human being of either sex is intended, and also in referring to God. Ingeniously the Psalm "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God" was recast as "Fools said in their hearts..."

Worse, the American-dominated bureaucrats of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) believed in a principle called "dynamic equivalence". This meant trying to evoke in the hearts of a Dagenham panel beater and a Soweto schoolteacher the same response that a child of Israel would have felt 1,000 years before Christ on hearing a Psalm.

With dynamic equivalence, texts go out of date quickly, even if they are not banal in the first place. Instead of "Jesus wept", worshippers hear that "Jesus burst into tears"; instead of wise virgins we get "sensible" ones, no doubt wearing sensible shoes.

The entire article is worth a read.

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