Bishop Cullinane calls for an overhaul of English Missal

The Emeritus Bishop of Palmerston North, New Zealand, in a letter to The London Tablet, says that there should be an overhaul of the English missal.

Bishop Peter J Cullinane says critics describe the present translation as clunky, awkward and a too literal translation of the Latin original.

However, Cullinane believes no purpose will be served by any overhaul unless the current guidelines behind liturgical translations are changed.

These were set out by the 2001 instruction Liturgiam Authenticam and said translations must convey the “integral manner” of the original Latin “even while being verbally or syntactically different from it.”

Bishop Cullinane was a member of the Episcopal Board of ICEL between 1983 and 2003.

Another retired Bishop, Donald Trautman is calling “for the 1998 English Missal translation, which was approved by more than two-thirds of the United States bishops, to replace the present failed text of the New Roman Missal.”

Bishop Trautman is the emeritus Bishop of Eire, and has also served as chairman of the US bishops’ conference’s Committee on the Liturgy.

The Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) in Ireland has also called for a review of the current English edition.

The ACP has asked that, as a temporary solution, the Irish Bishops allow priests to use the 1998 translation of the Missal.

Last week Archbishop Arthur Roche, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, said the option to use the 1998 translation was not possible as the Roman Liturgy should express the unity of the Church.


News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

  • Edgar Wilson

    I would appreciate the Lord's Prayer going back to every day English. Why we changed back to 'thee', 'thy' and trespasses' is beyond me. Not every day language and hardly endearring to the younger generation!

    • Br. Kieran Fenn

      Hi Edgar,
      I believe our own Bishops made that same request – and were refused permission.

      As for Abp Roche stance, I think he was one of those who gave us the present imposed version.

      An interesting question is why NZ was one of the earliest, if not the earliest country to have to trial the present translation.

      And was the former Cardinal Pell of Australia not part of the body that produced it?


      • Mary

        New Zealand was probably one of the earliest countries to trial the present translation because New Zealand, for the most part, is one with a great need for the liturgy to be stabilised.

        New Zealand's reputation internationally is that we are in most diocese pelagian.

        In other words there is great mess to clean up.

        New Zealand is basically stuffed.

  • Paul Franken

    What a wonderful breath of fresh air, what a recognition of the constrictions I feel in my throat when I try to follow the clunky wording of the "improvements":
    When , instead of proclaiming our communal faith we have to selfishly say that 'I' believe, never mind the faithful standing next to me;
    When I have to get my mind past trespass orders and legal restrictions when all I want to do is to forgive and ask for forgiveness of sins;
    When I want to be healed all over as He comes under my roof in stead of just my soul. (is there an ulterior motive by that change?)
    As well as the use of words which will never find their way on English school spelling tests when an understandable language term could be used.

    In fact with the present wording we would be better to go back to Latin

    • Dale Price

      "Under my roof" is a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, in which the centurion expresses his faith in Christ. Amongst the many, many failings of the initial ICLE translation was its determination to airbrush Biblical quotes into soupy ambiguity. It's even more egregious for the OT.

      Yes, there are ulterior motives in play–at least with respect to the 1973 translation–and the '98 version which repeated most of its errors, added some new ones and tried to recycle nonsense from the rejected '67 translation of EP I. The '98 is dead, and no one is going to resuscitate it.

  • Paul Kidd

    Bishop Peter you are a Gem!!!

    Finally some sense to the discussion.

    I used to worry when Bishops were made out of Theologians that they might not have any pastoral sense. Bishop Peter is one of NZ’s best theologians. And as a Bishop he has shown courage and good sense.

    Let is get behind Bishop Peter and ask the NZ Ordinaries to give us a liturgy that reflects who we are.

    We are Kiwis – no I do not want “How’s it Goin?” liturgy but please please bring back a Mass that I can understand and love again.

    At the moment I get so lost trying to translate the Mass from English to English.

    Bishop Peter you are a great man!!!

  • Thomas O’Brien

    I feel that what matters most is the Spirit that the lords prayer in.

  • Anna Holmes

    Thank goodness for a Bishop who has the courage to complain about the appalling language of the new liturgy that not only sounds dreadful but gives the impression that the liturgy is about the individual not the community – all those places where 'we' was replaced by 'I'.

    • Mary

      There is no need to create an apparent opposition between the individual and the community. They aren't in tension. Christ, for the sake of the Kingdom, calls the people of God one by one. Individuals are prior to community…unless individuals are converted communities are not. So professions of faith are by individuals together with each other. No one can speak for my conscience nor my coming or going in this world…only I can orient myself toward the absolute good but at the same time I am not alone.

      The Africans in Uganda put it well "We are because I am and I am because we are'.

  • Gwen Wills

    Thank you Bishop Peter, keep expressing your opinions and asking questions Both are valuable and so necessary.

  • Leo

    It seems that Bishop Peter will never give up trying to Protestantise our Church so long as he can draw breath.

    It is God’s answer to untold prayers that Rome repealed the previous Protestant translation of the Latin, and returned the liturgy of the Mass to authenticity.

    Yes, some of the language is “archaic”, but some of it is sacral, as it should be.

    Don’t think for a moment that retired bishop Cullinane wants to make the Mass more Catholic.

    (Edited: Leo, while you are entitled to a view on the matter, name-calling is out of order in this forum, and detracts from what you have to say.)

    • John Shone

      Well said Leo.

      I certainly don't detect any unreasonableness in your comments citing Bishop Cullinane. Rather, you tell it as it is; of liturgical practices and deficiencies that, sadly, speak of a Catholic Church in this country much protestantised in its liturgical outlook since the 1970's.

      So much of our worship today is "me"/"us"-centred rather than where it should be, which is entirely toward the Trinitarian Godhead – particularly upon Jesus who, in His infinite love and mercy, willingly gave up his life on the Cross of Calvary to save us from our sinfulness.

      Unfortunately, for many (if not most) Catholics, the Mass today has come to be understood not so much as the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary but more of a community gathering with the added provision of a memorial "meal" to which everyone, sinner and saint alike, is welcome – indeed exhorted – to partake. (And let's dare not concern ourselves with small matters such as "Am I in a state of grace to worthily receive Holy Communion"? That's going too far.)

      Yet, therein is the essence of the problem.

      Gone out the window is any understanding of, or belief in, the Real Presence. Indeed, sense of the Sacred has all but been replaced by in-church talking, laughing, hand-shaking, and banal music. "Jesus is not on the altar in form of bread and wine; nor in the tabernacle. He's in the pew!")

      And now, to add insult to injury, here we have certain bishops and others upset that "we" has again become "I", etc, etc. (Never mind the fact that all New Zealand's bishops appended their signatures to the NZCBC-published booklet introducing the new/current English translation of the Mass!)

      Wake up people! Time to re-learn your Catholic Faith and put it into practice before it's too late.

      • Jim O'Regan

        Thank you John Shone
        Jim O'Regan

  • Shona Cobham

    Thankyou Bishop Peter for reinforcing the teaching you gave at the Pastoral Centre in Palmerston North, which was an inclusive look at our spirituality, and “we” came to know and love the Mass following Vatican Two.

    Please keep asking questions on our behalf.

    Shona Cobham

  • T M Donworth

    Thank you, Bishop Peter, for bringing this topic up, and hopefully,_starting the ball rolling for consideration / discussion about a return to the translation we used and appreciated previously.

  • robert c

    If you wish to be critical about the mass, why not demand silence at communion time instead of music, those praying find it difficult when singing interrupts their thoughts, also we who have the new missals are waiting for the priests books that have replies to the responsorial psalm on par with the modern mass.

  • brian robertson

    Yes more silence at Mass PLEASE

  • Anthony Molloy

    The current English Mass is infinitely better than the banality that preceded it. Wishing to change to the lowest common denominator rather than wishing to learn and be educated in the terms of the current Mass is just lazy, or betrays a yearning for unity with Protestants that is greater than any yearning for Catholic truth. We are the Latin Church, and if we can't have the unchanging parts of the Mass in Latin, at least the prayer being spoken must reflect the doctrines we as Catholics should be trying to live by. Dynamic translations cannot give this.

  • Mary

    I doubt any of the 'critics' would know Latin well enough or care enough about it to be concerned about slavish translations…..its just an excuse.

    I for one would be ecstatic to attend just one Mass not hijacked by the liturgically discontented. For some reason they seem to think my Sunday attendance is an excuse for them to sort things out.

    For the more part the Masses are highly distracting, full of chatter and a seated audience keen to explore the weeks activities with their neighbour. They all watch the priest (or presider as he now is) transact a form of liturgical entertainment about which they all have an opinion and then they go home.

    Most are a trial, primarily reeking with illicit liturgical niceties and in the extreme as last Easter Sunday downright invalid.

    But then to want to worship Christ in the Mass in union with the whole Church 'on my knees' and in a reverent atmosphere with all the smells and bells which assuredly assist me to 'lift up your hearts' to heaven would render me outmoded.

    So why is it that we go to Mass anyway….just wondering! There are better communities to be joined of interest to me at the list in my local library.

  • Leo

    You're a bit of a refreshing breeze, Mary.
    Sounds like you've been to my parish.

  • Denis

    Here in England there are some who have raised concerns about the “new” translation, but it has to be said the Catholic weekly, The Tablet, really only reflects a tiny proportion of the Catholic population albeit one with a very loud voice.

    I’m not making the strongest argument, but isn’t it better to just get on with things now and please God spare us any more liturgical changes.

    Happy Easter to my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.

    • David

      The origin of these comments are not the Catholic Weekly, nor The Tablet, but bishops in good standing in the Church.

      From memory, Pol Pot killed off the intelligent, vocal members of society in Cambodia, keeping society somewhat less intelligent and less threatening of ‘the rule’.

      Thank goodness for those who have ideas, who are articulate and literate.

      • Leo

        David, Denis did not refer to a Catholic Weekly but to the Catholic weekly, i.e., The Tablet.
        What he is saying, very politely, is that The Tablet has, for a long time, been a medium for dissenting voices in the Church.
        I understand that the confreres of Bishop St John Fisher were perceived by some as bishops in good standing.

  • mitsi

    I wonder what Jesus would say if He were to walk into the middle of all this????
    I'm sure He would be appalled and would be exhorting us to concentrate our efforts more on how we can better show love for our fellow man, the downtrodden, the poor, the lonely etc, rather than spend endless hours debating whether saying something one way or the other is more pleasing to God.
    I'm sure that's what Pope Francis would be thinking too.

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