If your GetReligionistas wished to do so, we could open up a second weblog this month and do nothing but write about the mainstream coverage of the upcoming changes in the English translation -- repeat, the translation -- of the Catholic Eucharistic texts used in Western Rite. This is a major news story, no doubt about that. However, the whole "It's the end of Vatican II, as we know it" dramatics are getting out of hand.
If you want to see several key elements of this syndrome in one concise package, check out the following mini-commentary (I am not sure that it is a news report) in Time.
What would Richard Ostling do? Well, he wouldn't write like this:
How do readers know they're in trouble? Here's the first sentence:
Every Sunday, the world’s one billion Catholics usually attend mass.
That sound you hear is active Catholics laughing to keep from crying. All of the world's Catholics USUALLY attend Mass each and every Sunday? Huh? Since when?
Then there is the rest of this paragraph:
That means that for a few hours a week, some one-seventh of the world’s population is in sync, reciting the same liturgy, praying the same prayers. But on the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, English-speakers will face the first major change in nearly half a century: a new translation of the sacred mass
The only real problem in this passage is the word "but." Yes, Catholics around the world are all praying the same prayers and reciting the same liturgy (except for those in various Eastern Rites), only in various translations of the basic Latin reference text that emerged from the Second Vatican Council. Now there will be a new English translation of that text.
That is news. However, it is not a change that is so major that it will shake the world, as implied by the first sentence. The whole world was in harmony, BUT NOT after Nov. 27?
Then there is the following summary offered as a statement of fact, not opinion.
Now the new Roman Missal, as the mass is called, attempts to unite English speakers more closely with the original Latin and with other languages’ translations. But the new translation -- even though it took some 30 years to design -- often makes the mass even more wooden and more difficult to understand. When Catholics recite the 4th-century Nicene Creed, for example, Jesus will be described as “begotten, not made, con-substantial with the Father,” instead of “begotten, not made, one in being with the Father.” Begotten is hard enough—how many people know that “consubstantial” means substances that are the same? That’s a word found most often on tests in theological graduate school programs.
The Mass is called the Roman Missal? I thought the Mass was called the Mass.
Note that it took the Vatican 30 years to get the translation wrong. That isn't an opinion. That's a fact.
The new translation is wooden and more difficult. That's a fact.
"Consubstantial" is a strange word and will baffle many Catholics, who are not capable of learning what it means. That's a fact, too.
Actually, this is one of the passages in the new translation that points toward a potential news story. One of the common themes that I have seen in the coverage is that the new translation is less ecumenical and represents a step away from improved relations with other Christian bodies (think Anglicanism and progressives in the World Council of Churches).
However, I have heard a number of Catholics note that the new English translation has actually moved in the direction of another set of churches -- the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Eastern Rites. The rites remain very different, but they now share some crucial similarities when it comes to the wordings used to express complex doctrinal truths.
So less ecumenical or more ecumenical? Just asking.
Has anyone seen any really, really good mainstream press coverage of this upcoming transition?