lördag 15 december 2012

New English Mass translation not well received?

Surveys by The Tablet and others have suggested that the new English translation of the Mass has not been well received by congregations. Since these were not properly controlled surveys, and the number of respondents was tiny, now that the results have been published, there has been plenty of comment to the effect that people are generally quite satisfied with the new translation. It is difficult to get an overall picture.

I was no admirer of the ICEL translation and good riddance to it. However, the new one also leaves me uncomfortable. It has a contrived, faux-antique quality. Latin texts do not go well into English. The grammatical structures of the two languages are so different. Then there are the politics of the English language, which makes it especially unsuitable for use in situations which must be as inclusive as possible.

It seems to me that the real issue in this debate is that however the Mass is translated, it will always be contested, because English is one of the battlegrounds on which the class war is fought. That in itself makes it, in any shape or form, unsuitable for use in the liturgy. What should have happened, and still should happen, is a gradual move back to Latin and the EF. This is largely silent and people can follow in a translation in any language they want. The arguments will continue until the matter is resolved. Resolved means EF or the celebration of Novus Ordo in a form close to EF. Gradual transition is possible, and congregations are not going to be disturbed if it is done over a couple of years.

The music is a further issue. There is almost nothing of reasonable quality for the English Catholic liturgy. Gregorian chant into English does not go. The Ordinariate texts based on the Cranmer translations, and the music that goes with them, are another matter but they are unlikely to become a mainstream thing. I could be wrong about this. Faced with a poor celebration of a Mass in my Catholic parish, I would rather attend an Ordinariate Mass if no Extraordinary Form Mass was available. If there are many others who took the same view, there could be a drift from Roman Catholic congregations to the Ordinariate.

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