Fr Michael J. Butler, the chairman of Brentwood’s diocesan commission for liturgy, has sent his letter in The Tablet to every priest in the diocese telling them it’s legitimate for priests to ditch the new translation, and use the previous missal. Fr Butler has sent his brother priest the full version of his letter which the Tablet significantly edited for reasons that will be obvious as you read it.
Re: Revised Translation of the Roman Missal
‘It doesn’t get better’ is a very apt heading for Martin Redfern’s letter (9 November 2013) on the Revised Translation of the Roman Missal.
I am Chairman of our Diocesan Commission for Liturgy and have had much discussion with clergy, both within the diocese and without. Most priests have got on with it but grumbled about it. Not only grumbled but also changed or avoided some words and phrases that they found somewhat difficult to say with meaning. Some avoid words like ‘dewfall’, ‘oblation’, ‘consubstantial’, ‘many’ (and prefer ‘all’), some refuse point blank to use the Roman Canon ever again. Others reject the Sunday Collects and have returned to the previous translation’s Book of the Chair. Another has said that he has returned fully to the previous translation ‘in order to preserve his sanity’ – clearly ‘all is not well in the state of Denmark’!
What has gone wrong?
At the end of Vatican II in 1965, there was a final statement from the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, In Spiritu Sancto, read out to the assembled Bishops by Archbishop Felici, declaring the Council closed and enjoining that “everything the council decreed be religiously and devoutly observed by all the faithful.”
This prompted me to turn to Sacrosanctum Concilium to see what it was that referred particularly to matters of translation (Articles 34 and 36):
*34: The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity, they should be short, clear and unencumbered by any useless repetitions; they should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.
*36, #2: The use of the mother tongue is frequently of great advantage to the people in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments and other parts of the liturgy, the limits of its employment may be extended.
#3: … it is for competent ecclesiastical authority mentioned in art. 22,2 to decide whether and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used.
#4: Translations from the Latin text intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent local authority…
The above quotations from the same document contain the words ‘mother tongue’ and ‘vernacular’, both of which are rendered as ‘vernacula’ in the Latin document.
If we consult Oxford’s Lewis and Short (Latin Dictionary) we find that the word ‘vernaculus,a,um’ is translated as ‘of or belonging to home-born slaves’; in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary we find ‘vernacular’ defined as ‘the native language or dialect of a particular country or district; the informal, colloquial, or distinctive speech of a people or community. Now also, homely speech.’
‘Vernacular’, therefore, does not mean choosing the variety of English that is of scholarship and academe. I think that it would be closer to the reality if we were to think of the English that we learned from our mothers’ knees rather than the high flown, scholarly, Latinate vocabulary with which the Revised Translation of the Roman Missal is now unhappily afflicted.
Of course, it is not the fault of the translators that brought about this sorry mess. It is ‘Liturgiam Authenticam’ that is at fault: a document that is now a laughing stock among academics and scholarly linguists.
The document had the intention of creating a specific and recognizable language for the Liturgy – somehow a language set apart – but, of course, we already have a language that is suitable for Liturgical discourse, it is known as the Queen’s English with its enormous vocabulary, capable of describing all things to all men.
‘Liturgiam Authenticam’, therefore, is a Latin document that should be quietly removed from the Vatican bibliography and never spoken of again.
The notion of ‘competent local authority’ is a subject that is being given much attention these days by the Bishop of Rome, so there is no need to discuss it further. Doubtless, when we next have the excitement of translating Latin documents into English that is ‘understanded of the people’, it will be Anglophones who undertake the task.
I do hope that we can make use of the 1998 Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales translation (at least for a trial period and perhaps in paper-back form). In the meantime, I feel that it is legitimate to use our previous Missal, since what we currently have was conceived in error (neglecting to follow the rules from Vatican II’s Sacramentum Concilium and the type of English to be used), and it was not born of the competent local authority (and therefore lacks any authority).
I add a footnote, by way of a quotation from Father John O’Malley’s “What happened at Vatican II”: ‘On November 14 (1962) Cardinal Tisserant, the presiding president of the day, put Sacrosanctum Concilium to a vote on whether to accept the schema as the base text. … The outcome of the voting astounded everybody – a landside in favor, 2,162 votes, with only 46 opposed. .. The next year, on December 4, 1963, the council overwhelmingly gave its approval to the revised text of Sacrosanctum Concilium, and Paul VI then promulgated it. The final vote was even more of a landslide: 2,147 in favor, 4 against.’
The current Revised Translation of the Roman Missal has already been labelled a failure; it is also illegitimate.
I remain, Sirs, yours very sincerely,
(Rev. Michael J Butler)
Liturgy Commission, Diocese of Brentwood
Protect the Pope (Ed: endorsed by Catholic Truth) comment: Fr Butler has written his letter advocating that the revised Roman Missal is discarded in his capacity as the chairman of the Diocese of Brentwood’s Liturgy Commission. To make matters even worse Fr Butler has recommended to all his brother priests in Brentwood that they reject the revised Roman Missal in his capacity as the chairman of Brentwood’s Liturgy Commission. What will Bishop McMahon do to correct Fr Butler’s flagrant misuse of his position in the diocese? Source