Action Alert!

lost in translation

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 29, 2006

On this day when we celebrate the bond of communion between the See of Peter and the bishops throughout the world, it's edifying to see how Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, reports to the faithful about the new Mass translation approved by the US bishops' conference.

Why this new translation? Because it was made necessary to meet the requirements of an action of the Holy See regarding the principles of translation.

Um, well, OK. But why did the Holy See take action? And why wasn't an earlier English translation approved for use? That question is answered earlier in the bishop's column:

The translation was rejected by the Holy See because between its passage and its approval by the Vatican, new principles of translation were forthcoming which insisted on a slavish, strict translation of the Latin text.

Ah, yes. Nasty old Holy See, wanting things slavish and strict. But what about this new translation, anyway?

The text is highly anglicized (that is to say, replete with words more likely heard spoken in England than the United States), somewhat wordy when compared to common parlance in the US, and also occasionally inconsistent in the application of the principles of translation.

Well, we wouldn't want that, would we? But a skeptical reader, mindful of the bishop's evident hostility toward the Vatican, might wonder if he is being completely objective.

Come to think of it, that reader might also wonder whether someone who uses the phrase "somewhat wordy when compared to common parlance in the US" is a good judge of what constitutes "wordy" prose. Or he might stagger through this sentence:

But in answer to the question where will this text be used, the answer would not be inappropriate to say throughout the English-speaking world.

... and wonder how the author dares to set himself up as an arbiter of graceful English usage.

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