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Milwaukee priests lament more accurate Roman Missal translation; ‘salt in the wounds’

August 05, 2010

Milwaukee priests quoted in a local newspaper article on the third edition of the Roman Missal are lamenting the revised translations, which more closely reflect the content and majesty of the original Latin.

“The bottom line for me is why,” said Father Alan Jurkus. “Why, with everything else that's going on in the Church, do we have to rub salt in the wounds?”

“For some people this will be very unsettling,” added Father Ken Smits. “The real concern is among the parish priests, who will have to explain something many of them are not in favor of.”

“You can call it whatever you like, but it's not English,” said Father David Cooper, president of the Milwaukee Archdiocese Priests Alliance. “The language of prayer is supposed to be evocative, graceful, uplifting. This reads like clunk-clunk-clunk-bang-boom.”

“Anytime there are changes, people go through the process of being angry and sad,” responded Dean Daniels, who leads the archdiocese’s office of worship. “But the Church has been changing forever. It’s a dynamic, living organism.”


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  • Posted by: JIZ - Aug. 12, 2010 7:59 PM ET USA

    The literal translation -- "born of the Father before all ages" -- is not simply the most accurate translation; it's also the traditional Catholic translation. "Born of the Father before all ages" is the translation used in the Pace-Wynn translation (1916), the English translation of Cabrol's Liturgical Prayer (1921), the Saint Andrew Daily Missal (1945), and the Marian Missal (1955).

  • Posted by: Rex - Aug. 10, 2010 11:16 PM ET USA

    Exactly the point. By opting for literalism without taking idiom into account it results in a misleading translation.

  • Posted by: JIZ - Aug. 10, 2010 6:44 AM ET USA

    I'm surprised by the criticism of the new translation of the Nicene Creed. The Latin reads: “Et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum, et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula.” The new translation is an accurate, word-for-word translation: “And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.” It’s the current translation that’s inaccurate: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father.”

  • Posted by: Rex - Aug. 08, 2010 9:32 AM ET USA

    The new Nicene Creed has "born of the Father before all ages". Previous translation was "egotten of the Father", and this is traditionally how it has been rendered in English for hundreds of years. Now the Latin does say ..ex Patre natum, using natum to translate the original Greek gennethenta (begotten), but the Latin idiom can bear this. In English, born and begotten are very different things, and using born here suggests prior existence and subordination. It seems more Arian than Catholic.

  • Posted by: Moneo - Aug. 07, 2010 4:54 AM ET USA

    Thank you, Rex. I should have guessed editing was the culprit in the dewfall example, because anyone who understands Latin couldn't possibly be that poor in English vocabulary! I'm afraid I still don't see the "heresy" in either of the examples you cite, though. I see a disagreement over the best way to render both the sense and the literal meaning of the Latin text in English in the first, but not heresy; in the second, it's not heresy to use the Apostles' Creed in place of the Nicene, is it?

  • Posted by: Rex - Aug. 06, 2010 8:15 PM ET USA

    Another regrettable change in the new missal is the permission to use the Apostle's Creed instead of the Nicene Creed at the discretion of the celebrant, not just when there is a Baptism or (as at Easter) the renewal of Baptismal promises. The Nicene Creed has been the Eucharistic Creed in both East and West for over 1500 years. It could easily happen that many priests will use the shorter Apostles' Creed all the time to make Mass shorter. The traditional Nicene Creed may become a rarity.

  • Posted by: Rex - Aug. 06, 2010 6:45 PM ET USA

    In Eucharistic Prayer III, the Latin says "ut a solis ortu usque ad occasum..". It is a spacial idiom meaning from east to west, or 'everywhere'. However in the new missal it is translated as "so that from the rising of the sun to its setting..", in English idiom a temporal image. So much for evening Masses!

  • Posted by: Rex - Aug. 06, 2010 6:38 PM ET USA

    Thanks Moneo, I'm afraid I edited out some important words trying to fit into the word limit and then sent too early. About Dewfall, I meant to say isn't to be found in any English dictionary "in the sense used". It is defined as the formation of dew, an area of dew or the time of evening when dew falls. None of these make sense in the prayer. "Like the dew" works, but he Latin says "Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica". No dew simile, just that the Spirit come upon the gifts

  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Aug. 06, 2010 8:10 AM ET USA

    My my, how yesterday's revolutionaries from the 1960s and 1970s become today's crusty old guard. Their liturgical revolution is dissipating right before their bitter old eyes.

  • Posted by: Defender - Aug. 06, 2010 3:31 AM ET USA

    Anyone notice that these liberal priests are "organized" but workers in the individual dioceses are carefully "dissuaded" from doing likewise? I'm sorry to read that they think the laity are so stupid in not understanding certain words. I'm also sorry that it took Vox Clara nine years to come up with the changes that reflect the original Latin. The workshop participants were probably never schooled in Latin - too bad, they are saying some silly things as a result.

  • Posted by: Moneo - Aug. 06, 2010 3:22 AM ET USA

    To Rex: Excuse me? Dewfall isn't to be found in any English dictionary? Read your comment, opened a new tab, went to Merriam Webster Online ( and there it was. It's in the online edition of the Oxford Dictionary too. It'll be in any authoritive English language dictionary because it's a common word. And I'd like some examples of the heresy that the new translation promotes, please, because that's an absurd assertion.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Aug. 05, 2010 10:56 PM ET USA

    “For some people this will be very unsettling,” “The real concern is among the parish priests, who will have to explain something many of them are not in favor of.” Wow! We were saying the same things in 1970!

  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Aug. 05, 2010 9:42 PM ET USA

    Let me remind the Milwaukee priests of a phrase might help them adapt: Omnia mutantur nos et mutamur in illis. All things change, and we change with them. BTW, Fathers, that was Latin, the once universal language of the church. Just as we changed from using Latin, you all can change from using the current incorrect version of the Mass. Have a happy Catechism class. And remember to smile! Your next bishop might like you better if you do.

  • Posted by: benjamin.blackhawk1311 - Aug. 05, 2010 9:11 PM ET USA

    Perhaps in 10 or 12 years there will be an indult mass for those who can't deal well with change in translation, or for those who are nostalgic for the older, defunct translation. These masses might be held at nursing homes, for example. This of course would be the "pastoral" thing to do, but certainly no young people should be allowed at these masses! They would only be for those who cannot handle change or progress.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Aug. 05, 2010 8:33 PM ET USA

    Father Jerkus should stop obsessing about the changes in the translations in the Mass. They won't even be noticed by most of the people in the pews who are physically present but mentally somewhere else. Those who are mentally present will probably like the translations to be more accurate with the Latin.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 05, 2010 8:31 PM ET USA

    Do these priests understand the evangelistic power of majestic and glorious language? I remember hating most formality as a teen..except when it involved receiving my Eagle rank! Let's not forget, Mass has never been about what we give to God, it has ALWAYS been about what God gives to US! If we can't address HIM, the one, true, Master of the Universe, with formality, how can we address a mere mortal, the President of the United States, with awe???

  • Posted by: Ken - Aug. 05, 2010 8:03 PM ET USA

    This is what happens when seminaries stop teaching Latin. Priests lack any appreciation for the beauty of the langauge and its place in our history and tradition.

  • Posted by: Rex - Aug. 05, 2010 6:44 PM ET USA

    It keeps being said that the new Missal more closely reflects the content and majesty of the original Latin. I am a traditionalist and a classicist and from what I have seen of the new translation it does no such thing. In some cases, by opting for very clumsy literalisms when translating specific Latin idioms, it actually produces inaccuracy, awkwardness and, in a few cases, heresy. There is even a word in Euch Prayer II ("dewfall") which isn't to be found in any English dictionary.

  • Posted by: rng2 - Aug. 05, 2010 6:14 PM ET USA

    It is a sad day, indeed, when our own priests fail to appreciate and support the strength of the true and proper translation of the Eucharistic Liturgy and prefer the "babble" which has crept into our Liturgy thanks to "modernists". It would be so much easier to explain to the faithful the reason for the change is to return to the true and proper translations. I firmly believe that we are at the point, in spite of the current shortage of priests, where we should suggest – no, insist – that these rebellious priests retire immediately rather than continue to poison the faithful.

  • Posted by: parochus - Aug. 05, 2010 5:18 PM ET USA

    When did the priests in Milwaukee get so conservative?

  • Posted by: Hal - Aug. 05, 2010 4:18 PM ET USA

    That place is never going to get over Weakland. Ever.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 05, 2010 1:44 PM ET USA

    These sound like good friends of ex-Archbishop Weakland. One hopes not too good friends.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 05, 2010 10:59 AM ET USA

    These guys are complaining about a few modified sentences? What a stunning lack of perspective. Forty years ago the entire Mass which had been practiced for untold generations was summarily trashed with less controversy. Honestly, worrying about whether "the people" can handle the word "consubstantial" strikes me as daft. A little more concern about worshipping the Lord and the sanctification of souls is in order. BTW, what's a "priests' alliance"?

  • Posted by: Defender - Aug. 05, 2010 10:33 AM ET USA

    Guess this is what happens when the priests organize...probably the same ones who want to retain their folk masses, liturgical dances, etc, and they like the Novus Ordo?

  • Posted by: - Aug. 05, 2010 10:14 AM ET USA

    I look forward to hearing what this new Roman Missal is like. If it does have the majesty of Latin then it should be helpful. If this priest thinks it isn't English that I question his grasp of the language. I was a Fine Arts major and studied the great music of the Church. I've read the classics including Augustine, St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. As a convert I entered the Church and found mediocre English and junk music. I hope this is an improvement.

  • Posted by: Alcuin - Aug. 05, 2010 8:48 AM ET USA

    We will all be better off for a regular "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" (in any language).

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Aug. 05, 2010 8:21 AM ET USA

    I thought these progressive priests loved "change"?

  • Posted by: New Sister - Aug. 05, 2010 7:05 AM ET USA

    People NEED to be "unsettled" in many parishes across this country. These priests should not have as their chief goal to avoid all "unsettling" of parishoners, or their "anger" or "sadness", but of instilling in their flock reverence toward the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; ensuring their prayer leads to orthodox belief; living a moral life. If one is "angry and sad" over that, a priest has far greater problems on his hand with that soul.