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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Translation problems and Liturgiam Authenticam

by Catherine Frakas 15 Jun 2002

Translation problems and Liturgiam Authenticam QUESTION from Antonio Basto on July 7, 2002 After the publication by Rome of the document Liturgiam Authenticam, the fifth instruction on the implementation of the Constitution Sacrossantum Concilium, I started a private research on the quality of the official translations, for the vernacular languages, of liturgical books.
I focused my attention on the official English version of the Roman Missal, approved for the United States, as well as on the official Portuguese version of the Missal, approved for use here in Brazil.
I have got to say that I am amazed by the poor quality of translations. For me, the most impressive thing is that the Brazilian edition of the Missal contains several ommissions and simplifications when compared to the original latin text.
Such changes corrupt the beauty of the original texts and prevent us from hearing the True texts approved by Rome. Several changes in the Brazilian Missal are totally unjustified, since Portuguese is a Romish Language, and we have in our language several words that could convey without error or doubt Latin expressions that are difficult to be accurately translated to non-Romish languages.
On the American Missal, I spotted also some problems, but you can find some comfort in the fact that you are in the first edition of the Missal, whereas here in Brazil we have been using since 1991 the translation of the second edition, and the problems persist!
But by far the worst problem is that there are, in the Brazilian Missal, several ommisions and problems of translation in the Ordinary of Mass, and in a special way in the Eucharistic Prayer, which end up decreasing the level of reverence and knowledge of the Eucharistic Dogmas. Of all Eucharistic Prayers, the First Prayer (Roman Canon), is the prayer with the greater number of ommissions. It SEEMS as if such ommisions were decided on purpouse, not to convey the fullness of the Eucharistic Mystery. It is truly amazing that the texts got recognitio from the Apostolic See.
Examples of problems with the translated Canon:
1. In the Consacration, the hands of the Lord are simply refered to as His hands, and not as His sacred and venerable hands.
2. The words Pure Victim, Holy Victim, Immaculate Victim, are ommited from the Translation and replaced by Holy and Perfect Sacrifice, so that the effect of language obtained by the treefold proclamation of the word Victim, is lost. Also, the emphasis given to the sacrifice of the victim is lost, because the following words, bread of everlasting life, etc., assume a more important role.
3. In the last paragraph of the epiclisis, Quam Oblationem, the several petitions, for the offerings to be made blessed, approved, effective, etc, which could well be translated to my language, are summed up to some few petitions.
4. In the translation of beautiful Supra Quae, no mention is made of the propitio ac sereno vultu, and the text than states: ... as you accepted the offerings of Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, and the gifts of Melchisedech. No mention is made of the titles of Abel, Abraham and Melchisedech, who, in the original Latin text, are styled respectively as the just one, our Father in the Faith and Your High-Priest.
And the worst thing is that the words that follow, i.e., sanctum sacrificium, immaculatam hostiam (holy sacrifice, spotless victim.), are totally ommited from the Portuguese Language Missal.
Several other mistakes could be mentioned, even in the same Roman Canon, such as the fact that in the Supplices Te Rogamus, no mention is made either of the Angel or God's Altar in Heaven.
This state of affairs is heart-breaking and it must be made public.
Now, the new document Liturgiam Authenticam seems to give us some hope of a general review of translations, so that we may have more accurate translations of the beautiful Missal of Pope Paul VI, which, unfortunately, has almost no beauty when translated to my language. But on the other hand, the instructons seems to suggest that the texts are not to change too much, so as not to confuse the faithful, and the Episcopal Conferences will have a very important share in the work of translations.
I really don't know whether those changes are made in good faith or not, or whether they are a result of mistakes, of simple choices for simplification or of hidden agendas of people wanting to remove external differences between our Mass and protestant services, so as to promote Ecumenism at all costs.
What I do know is that the liturgical reform was carried out with the publication of a new Latin Missal. And I totally respect this new Latin Missal. But vernacular Missals should correspond to that new Missal faithfully. Instead, it seems that there are people wanting to carry out further liturgical reform by tampering with translations. The difference is that this behaviour of translators meets resistance in Rome (Liturgiam Authenticam is the proof of that) and it compromises the unity of the Roman Rite.
Therefore I ask: In your realistic perspective, can we hope for a good translation of the 3rd Edition of the Missal, recently issued by the Vatican?
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on July 12, 2002 Dear Mr. Basto,
It is my realistic hope that we will not have these problems with the new translations. Rome is very aware of what is happening and I doubt the Church will allow it to continue.
Mr. Slavek
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