Tuesday, November 22

words about words

Words have power.  What words we use, their order and the emphasis we place upon them matters to a level that cannot be understated.  So, it seems, I am in need to talk about words and about the new(?) Roman Missal.  The theory is that the 3rd Typical Edition is a more faithful and literal translation of the 'original latin' than that 'hastily penned' 2nd Typical Edition.  I suppose it never dawned on the Roman Church that the 'original' is common Greek and not medieval Latin or that, heaven forfend, there are idioms, phrases and concepts which don't literally translate....but nevermind that.   This is long enough that I'll hide the rest behind a cut.

In the first, I should mention that  I put the question mark next to the word new because, in large part, this isn't a new missal.  Unlike the changes in 1973, what is in this edition are from previous versions, either from the 2nd Typical Edition or things I find in my old 1930's 'I Pray the Mass' book, with the 'changes' being from the latter time period. In short, it is a pretty solid roll-back of the ecumenical and inclusive-language reforms of Vatican II. Some of the more disturbing changes to the liturgy I will highlight here, which underly a few themes.  For a full examination of what's changed, here's a brilliant side-by-side comparison.

There is the Confiteor.  In the long form, there are some subtle and not-so-subtle changes.  The Mea Culpa returns (breast-beating and all) as well as it being 'greatly sinned'.  More subtle and disturbing is the one word change "I confess (that I've been greatly naughty), and therefore I ask the Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints...".  This change is explained by Louie Verrecchio at the Catholic News Agency:
In summary, we are essentially saying in the Confiteor, "I know that I have sinned – greatly – against the Thrice Holy God - therefore I seek forgiveness, and I do so by turning not just to God alone, but to all who have been wounded by my actions. I know that my sins not only affect my relationship with the Lord, but also with every member of His Body. Therefore I turn to His Most Holy Mother. I turn to those beyond this world - the angels and saints. And I turn as well to my brothers and sisters, begging prayers of forgiveness of all concerned."
Considering this happens at every mass, it implies that (a) we 'greatly sin' all the blinkin time and (b), we can't pray to the aforementioned Thrice Holy God Himself (or even Christ), but must ask the Co-Redemptrix and the Saints/Angels to pray for us.  Now, I can only speak for myself, but it's hard for me to recall the last time I 'greatly sinned'.  Screw up? Sure. Miss the mark?  I'm an expert.  Greatly Sin?  Notsomuch.  And, excuse my Protestant upbringing and Celtic Spirituality, but God is ultimately accessible, as She is within us all and I, as His creation made in Her image and His likeness have the innate capability to speak directly with Her.  No intercessors or middle managers required.  Straight to the top. 

In the short form (aka. Form B) there is a stark difference.  Before, the priest would say 'Lord, we have sinned against you'.  Now, only the people say that.  Louie 'explains' it this way.
Notice the shift in accountability that has been affected by this change. Now it is all of the people – not just the priest - who say, we have sinned.  This is important. The Penitential Rite is a personal admission of sin. It’s not enough for the priest – who stands in the Person of Christ – to see our sin. Of course the Lord sees our faults, but we need to see them, we must admit to them personally and seek forgiveness for them in order to be considered truly penitent.
I believe he is half right.  There is a shift in accountability, but that shift in accountability has gone from 'people' to 'laity', with the priest as "the Person of Christ" seeing our sin.  As if the priest isn't a person like the laity are people.  Yes, the Lord sees our faults and we need to see them too, but the priest has just as many faults and needs to see his own as much (if not more) than any of those in the pews.

The Creed has been changed from a communal to a personal statement of faith "I believe"....but you must say it just this particular way (saves rant for another day.)  The Son is 'consubstantial', (not one in being) with the Father.

"For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man."

For us men?!? Really?!  And the Son is not born of the Virgin, but is incarnate of her.  The 'explanation' is that, since life begins at conception, Jesus 'became man' before he was born.  I would point to an alternate explanation.  As a verb., incarnate means "embody in flesh" or, literally, 'made into flesh'.  Let's re-read that, then.

"...and by the Holy Spirit was embodied in the flesh of the Virgin Mary and became man."

Yah, I'm leaving that to the Marians and backing away slowly.

In the Sanctus, He is Lord God of Hosts, with some emphasis being on a heavenly army (a la onward Christian Soldiers), not a God of power and might.  In the Consecration Narrative, Christ doesn't just take the cup, but he takes the precious chalice in His holy and venerable hands and he says that his blood "...will be shed for you and for many so that sins may be forgiven."

Cardinal Weurl commented in the Pittsburgh Gazette, "That doesn't change the doctrine that Jesus died for everyone, Cardinal Wuerl said.  The New Testament "makes it very clear that Christ died for all people," he said. "It doesn't mean that some aren't invited into salvation. We always understood and we continue to teach that while 'multis' says 'many' it means 'all.' ".

That's fine and dandy to say so to the unwashed and unsaved, your Grace, but that's not what the words say and that isn't what the Roman Church 'has always understood' or taught.  Many says many.  All says all.  The Vatican I pure and holy city of God wasn't for all, but only for the chosen and that's who you're talking to and talking about here, not the Universal (catholic) church nor to the prostitutes or the poor whom Christ broke bread with.

This deification of the priests, the denigration of the laity and the words of exclusivity are really hallmarks of a church which lost relevancy sometime during Franklin Roosevelt's administration.  I normally would leave this be, especially as I am NOT Roman, but recent meditations and events have reminded me how powerful words can be and how strong the 'old ways' can be.


  1. It's become evident for quite some time that 'official' Catholic language is being used to restore the conflated notion of the celibate male priesthood and the hierarchy with Christ Himself. Transcendance is a code word for hierarchical authority with the infallible Pope at the top--just like God the Father.

    If it wasn't so sad and desperate an attempt to maintain the Church of the early twentieth century it would be funny, but the fact we are supposed to take it seriously precludes seeing any of it very humorously--except this is a good try:


  2. Great post, Tim. I've learned more about the liturgical changes from reading it than from many other online essays I've read.

    But what bizarre reasoning by Cardinal Wuerl. If we understand that multis means "all," then why in God's name are we now saying "many" in the liturgical text?

    One of the most important principles I remember learning in Latin in high school is that literal translation often betrays the real meaning of texts. It strikes me that those who made this translation needed a good high school Latin teacher.