One year on: verdict on the new translationAbigail Frymann and Elena Curti
7 February 2013, 9:00
Nearly 6,000 people around the world completed The Tablet's online survey about the new English version of the Mass. It reveals a Church deeply divided over the revised text, with priests and Religious particularly critical
Catholic opinion remains split down the middle over the new English text of the Mass, an online survey by The Tablet has revealed. Catholics in the UK and Ireland are more critical of the document than their counterparts in the United States. Overall, 70 per cent of the clergy who responded to our questions are unhappy with the new text and want to see it revised.
Catholics in English-speaking countries have been using the new translation of the Mass for over a year now - time enough for it to bed down and to make a reasonable evaluation of how it is being received in the parishes. Our survey, conducted on The Tablet website from 5 December 2012 to 9 January 2013, invited respondents to rate the new translation against the old, to air their views on the language and tone and to give their response to some of the more controversial elements of the new text.
The number of responses - 5,700 - makes this the largest survey yet conducted on the new English Mass. Virtually all respondents described themselves as practising Catholics attending Mass at least once a week. As with any self-selecting online survey, the results are inevitably skewed to reflect the views of the constituencies that are most active online. Most significantly, the number of respondents who expressed a preference for the Extraordinary Form over the Ordinary Form is, at 19 per cent, much higher than among Catholics generally. These traditionalists overwhelmingly expressed a preference for the new English translation over the old. Here we highlight some of the key findings:
Thirty seven per cent of respondents were from the UK; 7 per cent were from Ireland and some 43 per cent from the US. Seventy-two per cent were lay, 7 per cent Religious or consecrated and 21 per cent clergy. Ninety-five per cent said they attended Mass at least once a week.
Our respondents were almost evenly split over the new translation: 47 per cent said they liked it while 51 per cent said they did not. A similar split was evident when asked about the formal style (49 per cent yes, 47 per cent no), whether they found some of the language 'obsequious and distracting' (52 per cent yes, 45 per cent no), whether they considered the new translation more prayerful and reverent than the old (48 per cent agreed, 49 per cent disagreed). The plainchant settings were the element respondents felt least strongly about: 48 per cent liked it, 25 per cent did not and 27 per cent were undecided.
Views on the main changes
Asked whether they were happy with saying or hearing specific new words and phrases, a majority of respondents approved of the following:
'Go forth, the Mass is ended' (63 per cent).
'I believe', in the Creed (62 per cent).
'And with your spirit' (62 per cent).
'Lord I am not worth to receive you under my roof ...' (60 per cent).
Closer to half of respondents were happy to say or hear the following:
'Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault' (56 per cent).
'For you and for many' and 'chalice' in all the Eucharistic Prayers (55 per cent).
'Consubstantial with the Father' in the Creed (50 per cent).
Asked whether they strike their breasts as instructed in the new Missal when they say 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault', half said they did, 39 per cent did not and 11 per cent did sometimes. Seventy per cent saw people in the pews struggling to follow the new text, and half reported that their priest had problems, at least initially, with saying the new Eucharistic Prayers.
Which Mass do respondents prefer?
New English translation: 24 per cent.
Old English translation: 51 per cent.
Latin in the Ordinary Form: 6 per cent.
Extraordinary Form: 19 per cent (10 per cent of UK and Ireland responses, 21 per cent of US responses).
Views from UK and Ireland
Some 63 per cent did not like the new translation and preferred the old one. Around two-thirds did not like the more formal style; they found the language obsequious and distracting and believed prayer required a special language; they felt that it urgently needed to be revised and was not an improvement on the old translation. Half believed that Mass should still be available using this text. Almost two-thirds objected to 'consubstantial'. Some 57 per cent said the priest had found, or still finds, it difficult to say the new wording and three-quarters reported seeing people in the pews struggling to follow the text. Only 38 per cent said they always struck their breast while saying 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault'.
What priests think of the new translation
Seventy per cent of clergy who participated in the survey disliked the new text. Two-thirds were unhappy with its more formal style and almost three-quarters (72 per cent) found some of the language obsequious and distracting. Two-thirds of priests found the new text less prayerful. There was strong opposition to 'consubstantial' (67 per cent), 'for many' (63 per cent), 'chalice' (61 per cent), 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault' (60 per cent). Only 41 per cent of priests reported always striking their breasts at this point, while another 16 per cent said they did so sometimes. Around half of priests approved of 'And with your spirit' and 'under my roof'. Four-fifths said they always or sometimes saw people in the pews struggling to follow the text, and almost three-quarters had still seen priests finding it hard to say the Eucharistic Prayers.
Some 69 per cent of clergy preferred the old translation, against 22 per cent who preferred the new text. Fewer than a third considered the new text an improvement, and 70 per cent felt it urgently needed to be revised. Just over half believed they should be allowed to celebrate Mass using the old translation.
What Religious think of the new translation
Four out of five - 80 per cent - did not like the new translation and the same proportion did not believe that it was more prayerful and reverent. Only a quarter reported striking their breast at 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault' and the proportion that did not accept the various text changes highlighted hovered at around 70 per cent. Ninety per cent said they always or sometimes saw people in the pews struggling to follow the new text. Given a choice, 81 per cent would opt for Mass in the previous English version.
What all respondents who prefer the Ordinary Form think of the new translation
Only 37 per cent of these liked the new translation, 64 per cent took issue with the elevated language, 61 per cent disliked saying 'consubstantial', only 36 per cent believed it to be an improvement on the old one and 61 per cent said it urgently needed to be revised. Half said the Mass should still be available in the old translation.
(The survey findings can be read in full and with additional comment at www.thetablet.co.uk)
Fr Anthony Ruff OSB, editor of the Pray Tell blog
Though this survey is not scientific, it actually tells us more thereby in one respect: among those motivated to respond online, those who most strongly support the new missal are Extraordinary Form conservatives. Apart from them, most respondents by far don't like the new text, don't find it more ...
Mgr Andrew Wadsworth, executive director, International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL)
While it would seem to be too early to have any reliable sense of what we really feel about the new English translation of the Roman Missal, surveys like the one conducted by The Tablet
can offer us some rather helpful insights:
Some people who held strong views for or against ...
Paul Gunter OSB, secretary, Department of Christian Life and Worship, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales
Who could not be encouraged by the huge esteem and love of the Mass that the variety of opinions expresses? The care that respondents have taken with this survey reveals renewed energy for our liturgical life as Catholics. Forty years ago, strong emotions characterised responses to liturgical reforms. ...
Fr Michael G. Ryan, pastor, St James Cathedral, Seattle, who ran an online campaign, What If We Just Said Wait, which urged ICEL to trial the new translation first in selected parishes
Surveys can be tricky – especially when they are open to any person or group that chooses to participate. I'm grateful that The Tablet
is giving people a voice about the new Missal. But, as I discovered in setting up the What If We Just Said Wait? website more than three years ago, open ...
The Most Rev George Stack, Archbishop of Cardiff
The wide range of opinion expressed in the poll reflects the richness of the life of the Church at large. Having conducted the liturgy in a variety of settings over the last year, I am convinced that, prayed properly, these texts will yield greater insights into the mystery of faith which we are privileged ...
Bernadette Farrell, composer of eight collections of liturgical music and deputy director, Citizens UK
The survey results seem to indicate that preferences are less about syntax than ecclesiology. Nearly all respondents who prefer the Extraordinary Form are in favour of the new translation. Although I respect all styles of worship, I find it hard to justify the setting aside of decades of patient work ...
Fr Nicholas King SJ, of Campion Hall, Oxford University, who is working on a translation of the Old Testament
These findings are undeniably interesting. My overall reaction is that most people dislike the translation, quite understandably, but gallantly soldier on, because they are commendably loyal. The priests object to the new translation even more strongly than the laity, but do their very best with the ...
The Most Rev Donald W. Trautman, Bishop Emeritus of Erie, Pennsylvania, and former chairman of the US bishops' liturgy committee
I commend The Tablet
for conducting a survey to ascertain the views of Mass participating Catholics regarding the new missal translation. I had proposed a similar action for the U.S. Bishops' Conference, but it was deemed "too soon." Nevertheless there have been three surveys in the US (CARA, ...
Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, chairman of Vox Clara, an advisory committee regarding translations of liturgical texts
Few survey results are entirely surprising and this remains true for this survey. As there have been few problems (and next to none in Sydney archdiocese) among the laity, it would be quite misleading to speak of a polarisation.
Neither is there a unanimous enthusiasm, especially among the ...
Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler 29 March 2013 0:28 (20 of 20)
Compared to the beautiful 1998 translation, this one screams to heaven for revision. Praying at home with the missalette, I have to read and re-read most collects to try ot make sense of them. That's crazy! There was no chalice at the last supper - it was a cup. The change distances us from our Jewish brothers & sisters, contradicts Scriptural accounts, and is unnecessary. To say Jesus' sacrifice is for 'many' is to nullify it - Jesus died for all of us! And the negativity and groveling posture enshrined in the language mitigates against the intimacy our God desires. Get rid of this translation!!
Eccles 6 March 2013 10:03 (19 of 20)
The point that BF has missed is that the translation used until recently was not specifically authorized by the Vatican Council, it was put together rather hastily afterwards, and is in many respects inaccurate. There were no decades of patient work underlying it. 'Cui bono' is best translated as 'as an advantage to whom?' (it is possible to write good English while giving an accurate translation, Madam). I fear that the 1970 translators would sloppily have distorted the meaning to something like 'What good is it?'
PBeirne 27 February 2013 12:36 (18 of 20)
When we come to celebrate the Eucharist there are 3 parties represented God priest people. The people weren't consulted(at least I wasn't) The Priest wasn't consulted(again none that I know of) Was God consulted?(mmm pass) My own experience of the response of our congregation is that most still respond in old version. Congregation for daily mass is about 40-60 in number and aged 60+ My own view is I find some of the new responses silly e.g. 'with your spirit'.The priest is spirit, heart,body, soul and the Lord is with every part.
Bob 20 February 2013 2:53 (17 of 20)
The new missal is unbelievably off-putting and is a total disaster. So I roll my eyes and just give the responses I have always given. No references to roof, consubstantial, or with your spirit. As for the travesty of 'for many'....I'll always substitute 'for all' in its place.
S. Worerd 15 February 2013 15:44 (16 of 20)
The results, while interesting, do not really tell us much about the actual opinions of average lay catholics in the pews. They might tell us more about what an average Tablet reading catholic prefers, but then we already knew that! What's next? Survey on whether the Church should ordain women? Again, we can already guess what the results will be.
J W 12 February 2013 0:48 (15 of 20)
I dont know where this survey was published but I suspect most ordinary catholics did not get a chance to answer. What I would say is that after a year (with a fairly open mind), I have the following comments. Firstly, none of us ordinary catholics can remember when we are to sit or stand. We knew before and had got into the habit of it. Now, (and I go to church most Sundays) we are distracted by trying to follow others. Secondly by kneeling so near to the consecration, I am never now in a settled state at the consecration as I have children to settle down who did not realise they are now to suddenly to kneel having been standing. We never manage it ! And.... and sorry to say this as I suspect you will all now be distracted..... when the priest says of the bread 'and eat of it' - my friend's sons didnt recognise this phrase and assumed it was 'and eat a bit' - so now whenever I hear that, that is what I think of ! And finally - on one of the masses over Christmas time - regarding the blessed virgin or something similar - I could not believe what they were getting the poor priest to have to say !
Ben Trovato 11 February 2013 21:31 (14 of 20)
The odd thing is that the fundamental shift from 'I believe' to 'we believe' which Bernadette Farrell attributes to the Second Vatican Council was in fact a novelty introduced by the ICEL translation. 'Credo' never became 'credimus' in the original and authoritative (Latin) text. By the same token, 'adoremus' was never dropped from the Latin original or the Gloria, although 'we adore' was dropped by ICEL. And so on. She is right to say that it was about ecclesiology; but the new ecclesiology introduced by ICEL was their interpretation of Vatican 2. Reading both Lumen Gentium and, particularly, Sacrosanctum Concilium reveal that ICEL (in the recently discarded translation) took, how shall we say, liberties with the texts they were translating to promote their own ecclesiology. That is why so many prefer the new translation: it is not only more hieratic (which retrogrades like me prefer) but also more honest as a translation.
Mary Lou Becker 11 February 2013 2:36 (13 of 20)
The old Liturgy was lovely. It all seems such a waste of time with all the other problems the church faces. Break up the boys club that got us into the abuse scandal. Deal realistically with the problem of lack of priests.Women need to be treated as equals in the church. There is no civilized life without women in the picture.
Alan Aversa 9 February 2013 17:51 (12 of 20)
We must heed the Council of Trent, which, in Session XXII, Chapter VIII, says that 'Although the mass contains great instruction for the faithful people, nevertheless, it has not seemed expedient to the Fathers that it should be every where celebrated in the vulgar tongue.'
Dr Mark Coley 9 February 2013 11:51 (11 of 20)
It is a pleasant change to see such reasonable comments from a senior figure in the church. Well done! If an evaluation were to be commissioned and lay involvement invited then I would be happy to put forward my name.
Dr Mark Coley 9 February 2013 11:37 (10 of 20)
The comments from those who had a hand in the new translation (eg Cardinal Pell, Vox Clara and Mgr Wadsworth, ICEL) are interesting, brushing aside complaints and saying that it is too early to make a reliable judgement on the new translation. I would beg to differ. The new translation has made God distant. More saddening is the thought that I have little in common with those who have pushed for this unwanted change. So much for unity.
Dr Mark Coley 9 February 2013 11:18 (9 of 20)
Why is it too early to have any reliable sense on what we really feel about the new translation? It was clear from a first reading of the final text there was something very wrong about the image of God that was coming across. No amount of catechises is going to change that unless its purpose is to undo over three decades of formation. In contrast, the previous translation (and perhaps more so the 1998 translation that has now been published), is readable, is understandable and provides us with a wonderful image of the God that called us into being!
Dr Mark Coley 9 February 2013 10:59 (8 of 20)
A simple counter example may be of interest: In the United Kingdom back in 2011 one priest in the Lake District introduced the new translation to the Eucharistic prayers a few weeks early. He received complaints from his parishioners. He received a complaint from me as a tourist about the distant God that was now being portrayed. I was told one parishioner had been so incensed by what was to come nationwide that she had written to every bishop in the UK. It was hardly a ringing endorsement. The feeling in that parish, from priest and people alike, was that we had been let down by our bishops. The fact that nothing has been done, that no one is listening, and that the theft of an authentic, honest and easy to understand liturgy is being perpetuated is shameful.
Brendan Coyne 9 February 2013 4:59 (7 of 20)
I am saddened by the Church's slavery to tradition that prevents it from relating to the present and reaching out to the future. The latest translation of he Mass is but one example. It is not a surprise to know that a significant number of regular Mass goers do not like it. Try 'consubstantial' on a teenager who is a seldom mass goer.
Syracuse, New York, Organist 9 February 2013 2:05 (6 of 20)
Ms. Farrell, would you care to answer your own question, 'cui bono', when explaining the 'fundamental shift' from 'I believe' to 'We believe'? If you feel it is so important to refer to the community whenever possible, why did you name your song based on Psalm 139 'O God, You Search Me' instead of 'O God, You Search Us'? I honestly don't understand why supposedly learned liturgists and theologians obfuscate for the more casual members of the Church that the reason we switched from 'We believe' to 'I believe' was so that we could each take ownership of and responsibility for the Profession of Faith. 'We' profess it together, but we say yes, 'I believe' these things. It's elementary. Maybe if a priest or someone else explained these things to the people in the pews instead of bad-mouthing the new translation of the Roman Missal to them, the survey would show much higher acceptance of the new translations. As it is, there is higher acceptance of the new translation among the laity and widespread negativity towards it among the clergy. It is not hard to conclude that the negative attitude of most of those priests toward the new translation propagates to their flocks. I know that in one of my own parishes, the priest badmouths the new translation at every chance he gets. If I didn't know better, I might start to share his sentiments toward it.
Joan 8 February 2013 20:56 (5 of 20)
I am a pastoral minister and I find that the parishioners,generally, do not respond to the prayers. Many make no effort to pick up the worship aids. They frequently respond with the 'old' responses. I think that the bishops don't want to hear from the laity and the attitude is just ignore them.
Ian Williams 8 February 2013 18:58 (4 of 20)
It would be useful to know the extent to which problems with early versions of the survey impacted on it, and the measures taken in mitigation.
Max O'Keefe 8 February 2013 18:26 (3 of 20)
You do realise that the right wing catholic blogger 'Fr Z' encouraged his readers to take the survey in order to swing the results to favour the new translation.
Darlene Starrs 8 February 2013 16:19 (2 of 20)
The Missal simply inidicates how 'out of touch', the Vatican is with the vision of Vatican II, 'out of touch with the liturgical flavour and color since Vatican II, and certainly 'out of touch' with the contemporary language and culture of most countries. The missal is a source of great grief for those of us who by and large grew up in a Vatican II church and where the liturgy for the most part had sparkle. Now, it is so retro, that I feel like I'm going to Church of the year I was born.....1958, interestingly, a year before the Lord, through, John the XXIII announces Vatican II. Although, it appears to be cosmetic change, it actually reflects a total lack of understanding on the part of the leadership of the Church, of their own experience, Vatican II and the Liturgical documents. As I say, it may appear cosmetic, and it someways, it is, because there are even greater concerns with the Liturgy. We still have people reading the scriptures, not proclaiming, and this is a very serious concern as we are now concerned about a 'new evangelization' Hearing the Kerygma proclaimed is as important as the homily that follows. Yes, if, I was in Rome, things would be cleaned up.
Jen Rey 8 February 2013 14:58 (1 of 20)
This so sad. Yes, change is difficult. But simply because people have trouble with it is not in itself a good reason to go back and revise again. The changes are more accurate and intimately drawn from tradition, etc. Some of the most disliked parts are my favorite, such as 'consubstantial' and 'through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.' I hope people will take the time to understand the changes instead of just focusing on how difficult it is.
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