Jesuit O’Collins asks bishops to dump Missal translation

A distinguished Jesuit theologian has asked the world’s English-speaking bishops to dump the “clunky and Latinised” 2011 translation of the Missal.

Fr Gerald O’Collins, who taught at the Gregorian University in Rome for 33 years and who holds several doctorates in theology, sent The Tablet an open letter to the bishops.

In the letter, he called for the adoption of a revised 1998 translation completed after 17 years of work by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

But this translation, which had been approved by bishops’ conferences, was “summarily rejected” by Rome, without any dialogue, the Australian Jesuit wrote.

Roman authorities set up a committee called Vox Clara, which is largely responsible for the current translation, he added.

“Ironically, the results produced by Vox Clara were too often unclear and sometimes verging on the unintelligible,” Fr O’Collins wrote.

He noted that those who prepared the current English translation aimed at a “sacral style”.

It “regularly sounds like Latin texts transposed into English words rather than genuine English”.

This is “something that is alien to the direct and familiar way of speaking to God and about God practised by the psalmists and taught by Jesus”, Fr O’Collins stated.

“What would Jesus say about the 2010 Missal? Would he approve of its clunky, Latinised English that aspires to a ‘sacral’ style which allegedly will ‘inspire’ worshippers?”

If the texts of the 1998 “Missal that wasn’t” are set beside the current translation, “there should be no debate about the version to choose”, Fr O’Collins wrote.

He told the Anglophone bishops that his “hope is now that you will act quickly to help English-speaking Catholics participate more effectively in the liturgy – a central recommendation in Vatican II’s very first document”.

He concluded: ”I yearn for a final blessing, a quick solution to our liturgical woes. The 1998 translation is there, waiting in the wings.”


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