Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fighting a lost war: Loftus on the new translation of the 1970 Missal

Young people fleeing the reverence and beauty of the Traditional Mass 
Mgr Loftus is helping me catch up with his columns by writing twice on the same theme in successive weeks: the old standby, the new translation of the Novus Ordo.

In the column of 4th August, he makes a truly contorted argument against the translation of 'pro multis' by 'for many'. It really is a tour de force of confusion and non-sequiters, which would be too tedious to retype. But, in a nutshell:
People of all ages being 'alienated' by the ancient liturgy

1. Pope Francis has said that Christ died for everyone.
2. Hang on, so did Pope Benedict!
3. So Pope Benedict must have been contradicting himself when he said that the ancient liturgical text be translated accurately.

Does Loftus really think that the Pontiff Emeritus is that stupid? And is it really impossible that Loftus has lived so long without coming across the very simple explanation? Let me state it as simply as possible:

Christ's blood is available to all. Christ's blood is actually efficacious not for all, but only for many.

It is true that Christ died for all. It is also true, in a different sense, that his blood is shed - efficaciously, with salvific effect - only for many. I'm not aware of anyone denying the first proposition. Plenty deny the second, and they are wrong to do so; the correct translation of the formula shows that they are wrong, with the authority of this very ancient liturgical text. Until Loftus can produce an authoritative teaching from Pope Francis or Pope Benedict that all are saved, then he can forget about showing that there is anything theologically problematic about the translation. If, per impossibile, this did happen, it would not only contradict the Church's immemorial refusal to accept 'Universalism', the theory that all are saved, but also the liturgical text itself. We'd have to change, not just the translation, but the original. The Latin just does not say 'all', but 'many'.

Clearly these young folk can't stand all that Latin.
With the column of 11th August, he assumes, without any real argument, that Pope Francis will agree with him about everything.

What a pity, then, that Francis was not Pope in time to abort the monstrously over-intellectual new English translation of the Roman Missal, which far from furnishing us with a 'grammar of simplicity', obfuscates the whole Mass through tortuous constructions, contorted vocabulary, and a plethora of dependant clauses. [Is this a parodying illustration of the style he is criticising? No, it's just the Loftus muse doing her stuff.]
     As we wait for all this to be corrected we can at least rejoice that it is highly unlikely that further inroads will be made into the translation of the lectionary readings at Mass, or the Children's Eucharistic Prayers. Or if there is any progress to be made, then it will be in different hands from those which now must be completely disqualified.
... Too much tidiness not only makes for unhappiness, in the Church as in a family, but it particularly alienates the young.

Don't hold your breath, Mgr. It took a decade to get the new translation through. No one is going to undo that any time time.

Loftus, of course, knows all about what alienates the young: he's been an expert at doing it for half a century at least. Does he really think that non-chaotic liturgy and accurate translation alienates the young? The older translation didn't exactly set the Faithful on fire (recall what the sociologist Anthony Archer said about it). But the free-wheeling liturgies Loftus wants have in all seriousness driven two generations of young Catholic out of school Masses and University chaplaincies: hasn't he noticed?

Congregation at a Mass during the LMS Walsingham Pilgrimage. They must be mad. 
This is what many young people like: order, dignity, reverence, a sense of the sacred. I can't say 'all', most of them haven't had the chance to experience it; others have been indoctrinated against it with some effect. But it is attractive to an important percentage, and it is often the same ones who are seeking a life in accordance with the laws of God. They actually want to be Catholics.

Come and meet them on the Walsingham Pilgrimage next weekend: 22-24 August.
Sign up here.


  1. Speaking of the obvious literal error "pro multis", I came across this clip recently on YouTube. It provides some background on this issue, and the 40 year campaign to correct it. From this account, looks like the error was intential.

  2. he has just missed the omnibus....

  3. The difficulty is that many progressives really *do* believe that all men are saved. They may sometimes find a cagey way to say so in euphemisms; but hell is not really something on their radar scope. Unless you are Adolf Hitler or Ted Bundy (or a BNP member, possibly), you're headed through the Pearly Gates.

    And then, sometimes, the mask simply drops. Liturgical architectural consultant and known 'wreckovator' Fr. Richard Vosko once told this to a group of New Hampshire parishioners seemingly upset over his proposed plans to reconfigure their beloved church into something looking like an airport terminal rumpus room: "You’re all going to go to Heaven when you die anyway, so, I mean, you know, God saved us, Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. It’s done, ladies and gentlemen. All you got to do is mind your manners and be good and you’re going to go to Heaven. So what’s the big deal?"