US bishops adjust liturgical translation following concern of CDW

Bishop James Wall of Gallup says Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Credit: Peter Zelasko. Photo courtesy of the Diocese of Gallup.

Denver Newsroom, Feb 8, 2021 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- The US bishops’ conference last week decreed that in the translation of the conclusion of collects in the Roman Missal, “one” is to be omitted before “God”. The conclusions will now read “God, for ever and ever”.

The decision follows a letter sent in May 2020 to Anglophone episcopal conferences by Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, addressing a concern about the English translation.

A Feb. 4 note from the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship said the correction will take effect in the dioceses of the US from Feb. 17, Ash Wednesday.

Until now, in the conclusions to collects the Latin words “Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum” had been rendered in English as “one God, for ever and ever”.

The committee’s note said that Cardinal Sarah had observed that “there is no mention of ‘one’ in the Latin, and ‘Deus’ in the Latin text refers to Christ … The Cardinal Prefect has pointed out the importance of affirming this Christological truth amid the religious pluralism of today’s world.”

The note added that English hand missals that preceded Vatican II “reflected the corrected translation … however, when the post-conciliar texts were published in English, the word ‘one’ was added.”

The English-Latin Sacramentary, a missal published in 1966 during the period of transition from the Traditional Latin Mass to the Novus Ordo, omitted the word ‘one’ in the conclusion of collects. The English translation found in The English-Latin Sacramentary was copyrighted by P. J. Kennedy & Sons, and had been approved by the National Conference of Bishops Sept. 3, 1965.

The USCCB committee wrote in its Feb. 4 note that it “should be noted that when the translation of the Missal currently in use was in progress, ICEL pointed out the discrepancy to the Congregation in Rome, but was told to retain the use of ‘one God’ in the new translation.”

The note said that the Latin rite bishops of the US have voted to amend the country’s version of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal to reflect the change, and that it has been confirmed by the CDW.

The most common formula, used when a collect is addressed to the Father, will read: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”

The change is in harmony with the bishops’ conferences of England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, as well other English-speaking territories.

The same change was effected by the English and Welsh bishops, beginning Nov. 29, 2020.

The decree of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference said that “The addition of ‘one’ before ‘God’ in the conclusion of the Collects could be construed as mistaken and problematic. ‘Deus’ here refers to the earlier mention of ‘the Son’ and is a Christological, anti-Arian affirmation, and not directly Trinitarian in this context.”

The addition of “one” before “God” “could serve to undermine the statement of the unique dignity of the Son within the Trinity”, or “could be interpreted as saying that Jesus is ‘one God,’” an explanatory note to the English and Welsh decree stated.

“Either or both of these interpretations is injurious to the faith of the Church.”

Continuing, the note said that “one” “risks suggesting that Jesus became a god independent of the Blessed Trinity and is one god among many … what we pray needs to express what the Church believes, requiring that, in liturgical formulae, we uphold the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity.”

The Trinitarian doxology that concludes the collects “emphasises the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who as the Incarnate Son, intercedes on our behalf to the Father … thus, the Son’s role of priestly mediation is made clear.”

The explanatory note says the phrase was adopted in the fourth century “as a means to combat the Arian heresy,” which held that Jesus Christ became God, rather than having been God eternally.

Moreover, the note adds, “one” is not used in the translations of the conclusion in French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Portuguese: “The English translation has, therefore, diverged from those of other major language groups.”

The English and Welsh bishops’ explanatory note said that “since the addition of the word ‘one’” could obscure prayer and thus belief, the Congregation for Divine Worship “has ruled it should no longer be used in the translation of these texts into English.”

The USCCB has been approving new translations of components of the Liturgy of the Hours, a new translation of the Roman Missal having been adopted in 2011.

At its 2019 fall general assembly, the conference voted overwhelmingly to approve the ICEL grey book translation of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours.

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  1. OK Fine.
    The little gimmick misslette booklets in the pews have all sorts
    of BS in them. Bishops don’t care.
    But Cdn Sarah cares. Pray for him.

  2. Interesting how this widespread confusion and disorientation and its cumbersomely bureaucratic aftermath of correction have come about. The “problem” does not even exist in the Traditional Latin Mass and has never existed there. Instead of returning to the dogmatically precise traditional liturgy, there is now still another wholesale revision of the liturgical books at vast labor and needless expense. By the way, how many have there been now in the U.S. since 1970 since I have lost count and interest.

    • The problem doesn’t exist in the Eastern rite Churches either. They’ve maintained accuracy in all the vernacular languages, and any change or update has never been an all-consuming issue.

    • Another point scored for Latin.
      But Eastern Rite liturgies seem to be doing fine also. I don’t know what it is about the English language that we keep trying to bring it down to the lowest common denominator. Even during Mass.

  3. It was, again, St. John Henry Cardinal Newman who remarked that we worship the Triune Oneness, not a “quaternary” as with a hybrid Christ (another God). What does Newman mean? This, from Walter Farrell OP, STM and Martin Healy, STD, in My Way of Life, Confraternity of the Precious Blood, 1952):

    “The union between the two natures in Christ is a personal union. It takes place in the Person of the Son of God….They are not mixed or fused with one another to form a third thing distinct from both [forming a quaternary with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. Rather they are united to one another indirectly in the Second Person of the Trinity…But in the Incarnation, the person pre-exists the union of the two natures, because it is the Person of the Eternal Son of God.

    “In the Incarnation the Son of God, Who is eternal, assumes to Himself a complete human nature, a body and soul. By this union the human nature becomes the human nature of the Son of God. He is the Person existing in this human nature, the Person responsible for all its actions, the responsible Agent acting in and through the human nature in the world of men […] If we were to look at the human nature of Christ and ask […] ‘Who is he?’ then we could not give in reply the name of any human or created person, because there is no created personality present in Christ. We should have to say, ‘He is Christ, the Son of God’” [Matt 16:16 !].

    But, if scribblers of verbiage simply kept their mouths shut, how would some publishing houses remain in front of the parade??? God bless Cardinal Sarah…someone, somewhere, is not asleep at the switch.

  4. Language requires philosophical examination, similar to Wittgenstein’s Linguistic Analysis. What does, “in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.” Does it indelibly confirm a divine Trinity? Working with pre Christian Africans Malawi, Tanzania they had many gods. It’s fine for the Scot who no longer paints himself blue or the Englishman whom doesn’t today practice Druidism to immediately come to a unitive apprehension of One God. Not so for Cardinal Sarah when he honestly examines his conscientious experience, and the many gods that African bush animists believe exist. Jesus mustn’t be presumed anywhere at any time as a god among many, rather a One God in the unity of the Holy Spirit as identical in his divinity to Father and Spirit. This is vital. Should Scots need stop brooding in their dank corners and Englishman surrender the belief that God is an Englishman and listen to the humble African with real wisdom Cardinal Sarah. God forever and ever means God. One God may be construed as a separate god. Equally God forever can also be construed as one god among many. Although I’m not convinced Sarah is entirely correct, and that the change is not a quibble. Does return to everything that preceded 2021 mean orthodoxy?

    • Rather than beat a dead horse I hope to revive this comment a bit. “Rather a One God in the unity of the Holy Spirit”, although hazily placed speaks to the Anglophone mind of the Trinity. Scots and Englishmen notwithstanding Latin is a different language whose structure parallels a different mindset, more concise, definitive. Whereas English is more loosely knit leaving much to colloquialism, how words are used the meanings we attach. For the American One God in unity clearly references the Trinity. Latin, the Latin trained mind doesn’t require excess words as we find in English. We think differently in each language, for myself learning Latin taught me to think and better organize my thoughts. We find the difference in some of the new translations of the Liturgy from the Latin, some of which are awkward. Apparently the result of attempting exact translation from an entirely different language. And mind set. Whereas a theologian comfortable and adept with English literature could offer the concise meaning better worded. That is why I question Cardinal Sarah’s removal of ‘One’ God in the American translation.

      • Other wording subtleties have included these: the words of Consecration as for “all” rather than “the many” (actually meaning all those not Israelites); “through God, with God and In God” (rather than “Him”), and at the Consecration again: the “everlasting” Covenant” (rather than eternal as from eternity). All heard in a major archdiocese and recently corrected, locally.

        Not only were these nuances Arian in implication (like “one God,” rather than “God” as Sarah explains), but as less than incarnational, do they almost give off the fragrance of lavender? So, not to discount the contributions of linguistic scholars, it might also be that Sarah knows the tip of a larger iceberg when he sees it…

        Something like St. Ambrose in 386 A.D. when he refused the demands of Emperor Valentinian II and his mother Justina for compatible inclusion of Arian services in his Milan Cathedral (with Christ as “one” God among many?), or for the placement of Christ in the niche of a tolerant pantheon, all in an effort to prop up a crumbling empire.

        Or, as Pope/Emperor Biden has said, his cafeteria-Catholicism (with Aztec accretions) still “coincides” with the Church. Also, and of possible relevance today, Ambrose excommunicated from the Church the Emperor Theodosius of the East for his massacre of a mere 7,000 in Thessalonica in 390 A.D., until such time as the emperor awakened from his bubble world and converted.

        So, with Sarah, the single word here and there as iceberg thing: the modern-day prophet Stalin said, “one death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” And 60+ million? Hypothetically, what of an Arian potentate who excommunicates himself? From the collarless Fr. Joe of the 1970s now to empty-suit President Joe…

    • Also to clarify, I’m not referring to the canon of the Mass, rather the attached prayers, Opening Prayer and so forth.

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