Monday, November 07, 2011

16 Year Old Latin Wiz is not a Theological Wiz.

As I am home sick today and feeling a little better, I decided to take a moment to respond to a recent article over at the NC Reporter.  At the NC Reporter, they featured an essay from a 16 year old Latin wiz kid.  This kid has problems with the new translation. Most of his problems come not from a lack of language training but from a lack theological training.  Overall, I give him an "E" for effort.


He Writes, 
"The other change is that the Latin "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" is now translated "through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." This is pretty much a literal translation. So the Latin is solid. 
The problem, though, is that the Latin itself seems to be hyperbolically critical of humanity. It might aim to promote humility, but inevitably it fosters guilt instead. It promotes a vision of human nature as overwhelmingly and inexorably sinful-- a vision more in line with the heretical Janesenist doctrine of centuries past than Catholic dogma."  
[The Latin is not hyperbolic.  The triple repetition of "mea culpa" should bring to mind two things.  First is Peter's triple denial of Jesus, and his later triple reunion with Christ.  The second is the Trinity.  The number three in a number meaning often meaning completion.  Peter completely denies Christ.  Peter then completely reunites with Christ.  The tripple repetition of "mea culpa" is like saying that "I have sinned completely" and that every sin is indeed a sin against all three persons of the Trinity.  Janesenist believed that they could do no good; humanity is depraved and corrupt.  I fail to see how saying "mea culpa" three times aligns a person with a Janesenist view.  This is like believing that the tax collector who beat his breast and asked God to have mercy on his soul is aligned with a Janesenist view of humanity, which it is not.]
An apologist of the translation reminds us that "the guiding principle of the new translation is a closer adherence to the Latin--not a sharper critique of our virtue." But this makes absolutely no sense. Who cares what the "guiding principle" was? [The guiding principle is VERY important.  It puts things into perspective.  By not caring for what the guiding principle is like saying "I care not of the guiding principles of the lines on highways.  I will drive as I like."  The end result is that the Latin is more condemnatory for no discernible reason. [No it isn't.  Just because you do not understand something and haven't taken the time to look into does not mean there is no reason for something]  And there is no scriptural grounding for this “sharper critique” either [As mentioned above: Peter's triple denial of Christ and every sin is a offense against the Trinity] -- the first appearance of the prayer is in 1100 AD, over a millennium after Christ. [The Church is Alive and Young.  Doctrine develops.  Liturgies change over time.  What is the purpose of poing this out other than to insinuate that the prayer is of little importance as it's first appearance is in 1100 A.D.]
He Writes:
The next major change is to the Gloria. Most of the changes are innocuous enough, but there's one at the beginning of the prayer that seems bizarre to me. The familiar "and peace to his people on earth" is changed to "on earth peace to people of good will." Not only is the latter far more awkward in English, but there's also a problematic sentiment implicit in the new phrase. Why are we only praying that people "of good will" receive peace? This seems to say that people who are without "good will" are not deserving of peace. [This is actually very simple.  Only those of good will are capable of peace.  It is not that peace isn't offered to those who are not good willed; however, it is the case that those who are not of good will reject the offering of peace.]

He Writes:
Furthermore, there are two bizarre translations of particular words in the Latin that sound awkward and even obscure: "consubstantial" and "was incarnate." The former is a translation of the word "consubstantialem" in the Latin, so it certainly resembles the Latin the most. But does that make it a better translation?  [This is because in the philosophical world "being" and "substance" aren't necessarily the same thing.  Instead of poopooing a word choice it helps to realize that when words are missing in one language to express an idea from another language the original usually borrows and makes a new words for the other language.  This is the case with "consubstantial," which is meant to express not just "one in being with the Father" but "with the substance" of the Father, which is trying to show that Jesus is as much God as God the Father is God.  There was and is no real one word in English that can accurately translate "consubstantialem;" therefore, the word is anglicized and kept as close to the literal meaning of the original as possible.    "Incarnate" is a theological term which indicates that God became flesh (echoing the first few verses of the Gospel of John).  Again there is no English equivalent to this dense theological terms.  "Incarnate" was for a while translated as "born," which is far too light of a word to express God being flesh.  Also, "incarnate" gives more weight that Christ received his body, his flesh, from a real person and wasn't simply born of a woman.  As a person who teaches theology and as one who used to work in a parish, I see this as an excellent catechetical opportunity to catechize the parish in the proper understanding of Catholic teaching.]

He writes:
Finally, I think the changes to the Nicene Creed merit some discussion. As before, all of them have good grounding in the Latin, but it's the Latin that's problematic. The first is the fact that all of the "believe"s are in the first person. This destroys the sense of communal vision found in the "we believe" of the previous translation. Faith becomes something of the individual, by the individual, for the individual -- ironically, a very Protestant idea. Catholicism is supposed to value unity and togetherness. [The Latin "Credo," which is how the creed begins, means "I believe" and not "We believe" (credimus).  The reason for the change is simple.  I cannot exprese what another person believes.  The person next to be might not even be Catholic; yet, the assumption is that the "we" speaks for all present at the Mass.  The Creed was never meant to be a general expression of what all Christians believe, but it was written for what every individual Christian believes.  This is also why the early Christians taught to the elect the symbol or rule of faith, that is the Creed, during their preparation for baptism.  It is what the individual must express.  This expression of "I" can be further linked back to the baptismal font when it is "I" who stands before the Lord and make the baptism on my own, that is no one is speaking on my behalf -- unless you were baptized as a child-- during a communal celebration and into a community of believers.]

He writes:
Ultimately, the whole affair just begs the question of why the Latin Mass has any particular spiritual significance. [How does it beg the question?  The author has done nothing than mostly give his own misunderstanding.  Doesn't he realize that he is speaking about the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church?  If I were in a Greek Rite, which was translated into English, I'd hoped they would go back to the Greek to translate.]  It's certainly not Scripture [Why does it have to be Scriptural?  What about Sacred Tradition?], and it's often just an amalgamation of various communal prayers used throughout Europe for several centuries. In fact, many early bishops would write their own Masses or translations to best fit their community's needs [This is often how the Catholic Church received it's different rites.  Appealing to this out of historical context does little good.  Doctrine develops.  The Church develops.  There was a need for Bishops writing their own translation many years ago.  Is the need still there?  "Yes,"  but it is done in a different way.  Moreover, it is those individual translation that led to the need of one translation.  We can't have people praying wrongly as wrong prayer leads to wrong belief.]. And that's the essence of Mass [The community's needs were not and are not the essence of the Mass.  This makes the Mass about us and not about God or others.  The essence of the Mass is the Liturgical setting in which the people perform a work on behalf of others.  We receive the Eucharist and then go to bring He whom we have received to those who do not yet know Him.  In this case it is a prayer for the salvation of all people which is emphasized in the word "mass" which comes from the Latin "Missa" which means "to go forth.".  The reason why we come to Mass in the first place rather than just praying by ourselves is the interaction with others that has spiritual importance. In the Mass the people become the Body of Christ, conceived as the organic whole Paul writes about in the famous passage from 1 Corinthians: “for the body is not one member, but many.” [Yet, we cannot be many without the one.]

He Writes:
The problem with the new translation and indeed the notion of a codified Latin Mass at all is that it destroys the communal and egalitarian nature of the act. [Woah there.  Egalitarianism is a far cry of what the mass is.  Equality, yes.  Sameness which is what egalitarianism tends to lend itself, no. We may be equal in the eyes of God, but we are not the same.  The priest does not preform the same acts as the congregation] Rather than an act of communion through which the churchgoer relates to God, it becomes an individualistic act through which the churchgoer relates to "experts" in Rome [I guess this is like those bishops who made their own translations for their own community.  How dare that one expert make a translation for his community.  How dare he impose his knowledge and intellect upon others.  Communities aren't 100 people anymore.  The Catholic Church is world wide.  When the Church was smaller things were done differently due to the circumstances in which the Bishop found himself.  This is no longer the case.  With the ease of communication it is now possible to have a codified mass as the Jews had codified celebrations.  The same celebrations in which Christ himself participated]. It sets certain people above others in terms of their knowledge of a dead language and of dogma [And this is bad because . . .?  Should we have people who have no knowledge of Latin or dogma writing the new translations?]-- concerns that clearly distract from the message of God. If the Mass has any meaning, it must be grounded in communal concerns and vision [The Mass is about communal concerns.  It is called "sin" which hurts the body of Christ.]-- not an effort to include as many four-syllable words as possible [Seriously?  Let me get this right.  Language matters, then it doesn't matter, than it kind of matters, and now word choice doesn't matter.  Which is it?].  

NC Reporter must be really grasping at straws by letting this 16 year old write for them. 

2 comments:

Fides Quarens Intellectum said...

Wow, Paul, awesome post. I find it particularly interesting how upset some people are getting about changing some of the words when, in the years after Vatican II, a complete revision of not just the words but also the direction the priest faced, and a slew of other things were welcomed with open arms.

Hopefully Benedict's hermeneutic of continuity will win out.

philomenasmile said...

I want to take this kid to my SSPX parish, show him the Latin Mass that wasn't just, as he seems to believe, recently invented to replace the Novus Ordo and sound really fancy, and then smack his face with the 1962 missal. In all Christian love.

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