One of the things I have always found most delightful about the Catholic Church is nuns. Protestants have fearsome and holy women, but they don’t have nuns. There is something feisty and admirable about a nun. Especially a nun with a ruler. How the whining ex Catholics love to whimper about the hatchet faced nuns who rapped their knuckles with a ruler, or how they like to mock the nuns who patrolled the school dance, thrusting a ruler between the pelvises of a close dancing boy and girl while crying in an Irish accent, “Come now, you two– leave room for the Holy Spirit!”
For the graying revolutionaries who lament the turn away from the all encompassing “Spirit of Vatican 2”, it turns out that the new translation of the Mass has become a symbol of a new spirit within the Catholic Church. That is to say, a new-old spirit, for Father Folkmass and Sister Sandals and all the felt banner brigade are squealing because they think a wave of traditionalism is sweeping the church, and it is all summed up by the horrid new translation which has no time for inclusive language and uses difficult words like “begotten” and “consubstantial”. They’re wringing their hands and expressing “concern” and even “deep concern” that the new translation tell us that Jesus died for “many” and so everyone won’t be automatically saved after all. Never mind that this is a direct quote from Jesus himself in the gospels, and never mind that the limited atonement (if that’s what it means) is balanced by the words the priest pronounces, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
So a reader of my blog commented that the new translation made her angry because it was clearly an insult to gay people and women. Of course she didn’t make any specific reference to the lines in the new translation that insult women and gay people. It was just the way she felt. For her it is clear that the church is shifting to the dark old ways of nuns with rulers, and that the new translation was a symptom of the harsh, reactionary, hierarchical, patriarchal, heterosexual, misogynistic old fashioned, pre-Vatican II church. You know the one headed up by Pope Pius XII who was “Hitler’s pope” right?
I thought one disgruntled blog reader could easily be dismissed as a sad and angry revolutionary disappointed that the younger generation had rejected her ideals as much as she had rejected her parents’. Then I discovered that her mood was a movement. A group of graying radicals have put together a website attacking the new translation, and using their dislike as a tool to dissent from just about everything in the Catholic Church that is on its way up. Their website has an admittedly clever name. It’s called A Misguided Missal.
When you visit the site you’ll see that the protesters are part of the definite artically-challenged “We are Church”. They say they are protesting out of “love for the church” and pretend that they are concerned that the new mass is not easily pronounced or understood. In fact, their real agenda is that kind of politically correct feminism that continues to be all the rage in academia. Their real agenda is revealed because they are championing the ill fated 1998 translation of the missal.
When we take a look at the 1998 missal it becomes obvious that much of it was driven by the feminist agenda that dominated the mainstream Protestant churches throughout the 1990’s. Those promoting this agenda wanted “inclusive human language” and “expansive/inclusive God language.” For those who are innocent of such “newspeak”, “inclusive human language” means we mustn’t refer to the whole human race as “men”. Instead we must use words like “Humankind” or “People”. “Expansive/inclusive God language” means that whenever possible we must weed out all those offensive references to God as being masculine.
A quick look comparison of the 1973, 1998 and 2011 translations illustrates the point. So in the Invitation to Prayer in 1973 the people reply, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name…” The 1998 translation, on the other hand says, “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of God’s name.” See? Remove the masculine pronoun for God whenever you can. When I was witnessing this in the Anglican Church in the 1990s part of the plan was also to cut out references to God as Father whenever possible. So prayers that used to begin by addressing the Heavenly Father were routinely sanitized to refer to “God” or “Creator”. The most famous of these travesties was a faux Trinitarian blessing and baptismal formula, “in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.”
So what happened and why have we been spared the triumph of the trendy feminists? Throughout the 1990s the Catholic liturgists had been working ecumenically with the Protestants to use agreed texts. In 2001 Catholics pulled out. We walked. The Vatican decided that the agreed ecumenical texts were driven by a modernist, politically correct agenda and decided to go it alone. The Misguided Missal website reports that, “Presbyterian liturgist Horace Allen said that after he read the 2001 Roman document, he slumped in his chair and wept. ‘I realized that something terrible had happened which in my own worst imaginings I had never anticipated. A trusted and beloved ecumenical partner had suddenly and effectively walked away from the table.’ Boo hoo.
So is it back to nuns with rulers? Is the Catholic Church turning back the clock? Are we reversing all the ‘gains’ of the second Vatican Council? No. Church historian and Newman scholar, Fr Ian Ker observes that it has usually taken about fifty years for any council to really get into the bloodstream of the church. I reckon we’re just finding our balance and the real fruit of Vatican II is only now beginning to ripen. The new translation is a particularly sweet and juicy fruit.
Happily, we have been spared the politically correct nightmare that would have been foisted on us by our “ecumenical partners” with a combination of bogus scholarship, political manipulation and emotional blackmail. I, for one, am delighted that we walked away from a partnership that was disastrous. I’m only sorry that when I first sampled the new translation I commented that some of the prayers seemed clunky, and the editors at Misguided Missal quoted me.
If there’s any doubt, let it be on the record that I think the new translation is fantastic, and what slight problems there may be are far outweighed by its strengths. As a parish priest I have had not one complaint from the people. Indeed, their participation in the Mass is more robust and unified than it ever was with the 1973 missal. The new words are not only beautiful, but they have a rugged solidity to them which the 70s mass lacked.
I am a thoroughgoing fan of the new translation, and I wouldn’t mind a few nuns with rulers either.