ROME, NOV. 8, 2011 (ZENIT)
Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: Being part of the English world, I will be celebrating the Eucharist with the new translation from the first Sunday of Advent 2011. Even though I have grown to appreciate the translation I have used since my ordination, I am willing to adopt the new translation. In fact, to those who complain, I suggest we should have a "new" translation for every new generation so that we never become so used to the words that we fall into the trap of mechanical recitation. However, there is one word which I cannot for the time being accept to use. That is the word "many" in place of "all" in the prayer of consecration. I have read all the theological explanations, but for as long as I hear the Pope pray "per tutti" in Italian, then why should I restrict it to "per molti"? Will I be guilty of disobedience if I continue using "for all" until I observe that all other languages — and especially the Holy Father — also reduce it to "many"? — F.D., South Africa
A: With all due respect, Father, I think you would not have asked the question if you did not already suspect the answer.
If you go ahead with this idea, then effectively you would be guilty of disobedience and perhaps also be a source of scandal and doctrinal confusion to the faithful. It is important for us priests to remember that the faithful have a sacred right to receive from us the liturgy that the Church proposes and not our personal ideas and inclinations.
You are also aware that the application of liturgical translations is territorial. The fact that the Italian bishops have not yet completed their new translation, or that the change has been applied in Spanish in many Latin-American countries but not yet in Spain, is a technical matter. Each language and country will go at its own pace, and we cannot arbitrarily decide to go against the Holy See and the bishops' conference because of a bureaucratic backlog in some other country.
English is in the forefront for many good reasons, not least among them being that the new translation will be a de facto model for many other countries lacking specialists in liturgical Latin.
As you have read the doctrinal arguments in favor of this change (see our column of May 24, 2011), you are surely aware that this linguistic adjustment in favor of a more accurate translation of the Latin changes nothing in Catholic doctrine with respect to Christ's dying for all. Because of this, the Pope and any other priest can say "for many" when celebrating in Latin, French, Polish, Spanish and soon English, while still saying "for all" in those languages where the translation is still a work in progress.
Therefore, I would suggest, that instead of unreasonably creating confusion among the faithful and possible conflict with your fellow priests, it would be much better to put aside your personal views and make use of the change as an opportunity to explain to the faithful the meaning behind the changes, especially the ideas mentioned in the letter from the Holy See mandating the change. To wit:
"d. 'For many' is a faithful translation of pro multis, whereas 'for all' is rather an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis.
"e. The expression 'for many,' while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one's willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the 'many' to whom the text refers."
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Follow-up: "For All" vs. "For Many" [11-22-2011]
Several readers commented on the change from "for all" to "for many" (see Nov. 8) in the new translation of the Roman Missal. A reader from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said: "It seems to me that the Roman Catholic Church, while professing on one side to be embracing of all, is hardening its heart and beginning a new era of exclusivity and exclusion with the change of 'for all' to 'for many.' Did our savior Jesus Christ not promise salvation to all, even though he did say all are called but not all will be chosen? If the promise exists, should not the prayer continue extending that invitation each time the celebration of the Eucharist is offered?"
I cannot repeat here all of the arguments that the Church has offered justifying the more literal translation. I would say, however, that we should recall that we are dealing with a translation. The official Latin text has always said "for many," and several other translations into major languages such as French also have said "for many" or "for the multitude" since the Second Vatican Council.
None of these countries has been particularly marked by a new era of exclusivity, and I simply fail to see how the Church's decision to mandate a uniform and more accurate translation, which leaves the fundamental meaning intact, can be interpreted as an ominous harbinger of doctrinal regression.
A German reader offered the following insightful reflection:
"As an oriental Catholic of the Byzantine-Ukrainian liturgical tradition, where the words 'for many' remain firm and unchanged at consecration, my preference from force of habit would, of course, be contrary to that of the priest from South Africa who wrote to you. Psalms and liturgy form an integral unity in the Byzantine tradition, which is why 'the many' so constantly mentioned in the Psalms rightfully and ever-consistently ring through in the words of consecration as well.
"Reading the arguments and discussions that crop up every now and then in the media on the question 'for all / for many,' I have never come across a clear argument in favor of 'for many,' which is rooted in the 'scapegoat mechanism' so thoroughly elaborated by René Girard and so masterfully analyzed on the basis of biblical texts (in particular the Psalms) by Father Raymund Schwager in his book Must There Be Scapegoats.
"In the scapegoat situation so often captured in the Psalms, it is always 'the many' that encircle, harass and kill 'the one.' So from the perspective of an onlooker on the drama being played out, 'all = many + one.' From the perspective of 'the one' being scapegoated, he is dying not 'for himself' but for 'the many' which is the same as 'for all of them.' Knowing that Christ is the God-Man, we can theologically say that 'the many' means 'all men,' that is, minus the one man who is God-Man. In other words, the apparent discrepancy is solved by bringing 'the One' clearly into the picture with the scapegoat mechanism."
While this is just one theological perspective out of many possible lines of reflection, I believe that it shows that the debate can best be deepened by recurring to Scripture and Tradition.