Monday, March 27, 2006

Good Prayers, Bad Prayers, an Emperor and Two Composers
Is there really a need for the patronizing tone that you take here and persistently in so many of your comments? Which God gave you the divine commission to be the voice of 'Catholic sensibility' as if all other views were less than such? I have strong opinions, and I'm willing to back them up. I tend not to rely on quoting others as some bloggers do, preferring instead to formulate my own thoughts. As a writer I strive to be somewhat original, and bring an honest synthesis to liturgy discussions. If others feel patronized, I can only sat I'm more of a pussycat in person. And if you disagree with me, be thankful youonly have to debate me and not Nathan Mitchell, or Raymond Brown, or even the documents of Vatican II. As far as I can see, this is not a post that comments on the politics of ICEL but on the texts that exist in the current English translation of the Roman Missal, regardless of their provenance and these texts are brought into comparison with the 2002 Missale Romanum, and this comparison reveals the paucity of the current English translation. I think its germane to question the usefulness of such an approach. Pile on the ignorant translators of the 1960's and early 70's without regard for the perspective of the day: that's what it looks like to me. I've been critical of the English version of Roman Missal II since I was in grad school studying liturgy. And let's admit that the hierarchy both in Rome and the US was more than content to first approve these poor translations, then in the former case, obfuscate the publication of a superior one. The problem of poor translation still persists and so long as we labour under it, there is a need to draw to the attention of the faithful, the richness of the original Latin prayers which the English rendering claims to be a translation of. I'm not so sure it's as much drawing the attention of the faithful as it is giving oneself a congratulatory pat on the back for being such a good Latin student. The new ICEL prayers (which have been published as a separate book) are rejected by Rome as being entirely beyond the remit of ICEL, which is essentially a translating body. How did it ever arrogate to itself the composition of new texts? Those were the rules Rome itself set out in 1969. Ask the Italians how they got so many prayers composed in their vernacular. And if one wants to criticize ICEL for what happened in the 1970's and 80's, the least one can do is consult the rules of the 70's and 80's. Sort of like criticizing Charley Jones for hitting only 55 lifetime homers. Then you realize he did it two generations before Babe Ruth. Other translating bodies prepared original texts; the Italians had a number of good original collects. Comparison with those would be interesting. Your notion of crafting new liturgical texts is an entirely separate issue from the current post and a red herring. I do not wish to address that here. Not if new texts are being criticized. The onus lies on you to explain why translation from the Latin is not sufficient for the modern Roman Rite? How have modern man so developed that a translated text no longer suffices? Is the same true of the psalms and the Scriptures and other translated texts from classical culture? Simpler than that: the Latin texts were compiled for the 1570 Missal and its Lectionary. I think the expanded Lectionary and the reformed sacramental rites are worthy to have a series of prayer in harmony with the entire Mass, not just what was adequate for celebration in the previous four centuries. I think Brother Lew is well aware that modern Scripture scholarship has some input to provide on translations. But the point of the article in question, as he says, is about the collects of the Roman Missal. In 1996 Mgr Bruce Harbert, who is now the Executive Secretary of ICEL, described ICEL translations of some of the Collects as “unmemorable,” flawed by a “cuddle-factor” of excessive emphasis on the heart as opposed to the mind, and revealing a “propensity towards Pelagianism” by stressing what humans do rather than what God does. I might agree. That still holds true and that is why they remain open to criticism and why the original Latin texts and any other parallel translations deserve study. Fr Z. helps us in this, as do others commentators, be they 'conservative' or 'progressive' and I am grateful for that. I would not consider this an imitation or jumping on a bandwagon. I'm not sure the "study" is all that useful. I'd be interested in seeing if ICEL of the 1980's was on the right track in translating Roman Missal II. Another interesting comparison would be to contrast the Latin originals (conceded these are the very best in the Roman tradition) with the very best modern prayers composed in harmony with the current Lectionary. Finally, I wonder if the complaints that 'progressive' liturgists have with regard to the ICEL translations have much in common with those who want to preserve a sense of fidelty to the Latin orations. I wouldn't wonder. I think progressives are concerned more with the expression of beauty, clarity, and dignity in worship than with fidelity to a Latin original. I think fidelity to the original Latin prayers must take a second seat to the higher ideals of worship as laid out in Sacrosanctum Concilium. It's enough to say the current English prayers aren't the best we can do. And while "faithful" translations of the Latin originals are a step in the right direction, I don't think they're the best we can do either. Or as musicians might ask, "Why settle for Emperor Joseph II or even Salieri, when you can have Mozart?"

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