16 February 2017, The Tablet

Authentic liturgy needs to be understood


If the language with which we pray is not the language with which we think, write and speak, it constitutes a barrier that separates us from God. This is the major flaw in the current translation of the Latin Mass into English, and it could hardly be more serious. It can leave congregations reciting the words of the Mass only notionally, without entering into their meaning with their hearts and minds. Or it jolts them with its insistence that “he” and “him” mean “he and she” and “him and her”, a perverse reminder that as far as the Church is concerned they live in an exclusively male universe where non-males are invisible.

The fault lies with a 2001 document, Liturgiam Authenticam, a product of the years of Pope John Paul II’s final sickness, when the Vatican curia became a law unto itself. Its publication wrecked a promising project to provide a new translation in good understandable English that had received the unanimous support of all the English-speaking episcopal hierarchies. The responsibility also lies with those same hierarchies, who feebly submitted to this dictatorship of the literal-minded.

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