TWO YEARS AFTER THE CHANGES IN THE MASS
THERE ARE STILL REASONS FOR DISAGREEMENT
All good, churchgoing Catholics know that, since the beginning of Advent 2011, Masses in English-speaking parishes have been conducted according to the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. This work provides revised translations of prayers spoken by the priest and responses by the people, departing in numerous places — some slightly, some substantially — from language which had been used since the 1970s.
Introduction of the new missal was greeted with jubilance in many quarters and discomfort in others. A lot of people welcomed it as a step toward greater sanctity and prayerfulness in Catholic worship (an understandable hope, given some of the liturgical abuses we’ve witnessed in recent decades). At the same time, numerous objections were raised about the altered English phraseology which was intended to hew more closely to the international Latin standard and was therefore less colloquial.
To mark the second anniversary of this shift in liturgical direction, New Oxford Review has published a pair of articles, one taking an affirmative stance on the new missal, the other expressing reservations. Rosemary Lunardini writes in support of the revisions. I am honored to take part as the skeptic.
While I raise points about several aspects of the translation — and express strong feelings about one particular adjustment which I consider a serious personal loss — my essay makes two principal points…
The first is that you don’t have to be liberal (theologically, politically or otherwise) to object to the revised language. This is especially pertinent since critics are too often assumed to be exclusively on the left.
My other point has to do with the triumphalist — I would almost say snide — tone in which the new missal has frequently been praised and objections dismissed. This has been glaringly apparent in the more conservative Catholic media.
Liturgy is a topic that stirs strong feelings, and I expect some reaction to my arguments. Actually, I would be delighted to hear from anybody who’s moved to comment, either in agreement with my views or, even better, to tell me I’m an ass. I have been an ass on numerous occasions in my life, and I’m quite prepared to be so characterized. (Rosemary Lunardini comes close to doing it, but she’s too polite a lady to be that explicit.)
A quick note:
My essay was submitted to NOR back in March before the installation of our new Pope. The Holy Father has congratulated the International Commission on English in the Liturgy for its work on the new translations. But the overall changes in papal style and emphasis may have caused some moderation of people’s attitudes related to liturgy since his installation — as, Lord knows, they’ve stirred concern in numerous areas of Church life (see my post of October 1). Still, I think the main points in my article remain valid.
Like most small, special-interest journals, New Oxford Review struggles with the current hard economic realities of the publishing business. Consequently, there is a modest fee ($1.50) for online access to newly released material. If you are able to read the two commentaries, please let me know what you think.
The essays can be accessed here…