Here is the transcript of an interview on NPR from June 18, 2006 with the Reverend Thomas Reese of Georgetown University. Let's assume he's a Catholic priest even if it is difficult to prove that by his words.
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This past week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a new English translation for the Roman Catholic mass that would alter key prayers that parishioners have been saying since 1965. That was when the second Vatican Council dropped Latin from the mass and allowed priests and parishioners to participate in their native language.
Note to non-Catholics and Catholics who haven't been paying attention:
The problem was not that the Mass could suddenly be said in the vernacular instead of Latin. The problem was the changing of the words of the Mass itself.
If I've said it once, I've said it a million times. If we had kept the Tridentine Mass and merely translated it into all the languages of man, we would have been much better off. Still worse than before Vatican II, but not as bad as now.
Joining us by phone is Father Thomas Reese, of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak to us.
Reverend THOMAS REESE (Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University): Sure.
HANSEN: Can you briefly explain the changes that are going to be made in the mass, please?
Rev. REESE: The changes that people in the pews will notice the most are in the prayers that they recite. For example, there are a number of places during the mass where the priest says, the Lord be with you. Now, today, the response says, And also with you. That's going to change. The new response will be, And with your spirit. They're doing that because that's a stricter, more literal translation of the Latin, which the altar boys in your audience will remember as (speaks Latin).
Huh? (Laughs sadly and quietly.)
There were a number of people who wanted to go back to a much more strict, literal translation of the Latin, rather than having a translation that really emphasizes understanding and conveying the meaning of the text.
Exactly whose meaning does a looser, less literal translation convey? Certainly not that of the Church Fathers. Maybe Daniel Berrigan's?
HANSEN: But that seems a rather minor change.
Rev. REESE: It is a minor change. That's why I wonder, why bother? And try to explain to second graders and third graders what and with your spirit mean? The question people in the pews will be asking is why are we doing this? Why is this better than what we used to say?
Why? Because those are the words in the liturgy of the universal Church as written today. Universal still means "the same everywhere", does it not?
Since when do we base our liturgy on the intellectual capacity of second graders? This smells like condescension by Reese. I'm guessing he thinks the laity are a bunch of rubes who should shut up and do what they're told [by people like Reese] because they are incapable of understanding the Mass as written.
Interestingly, Catholics who obey the pope and are faithful to the traditions of the Catholic Church are called fascists. What shall we call Catholics who obey those whose faith is only grounded in today's headlines and the latest technological advancements?
Call me orthodox, but I would rather follow 2,000 years of holy tradition. The alternative is merely the political [Yes, I mean political.] agenda of those who are infected by the spirit of this age instead of being inspired by the Holy Spirit.
HANSEN: How long has this been - this change been in the works? What was the driving force for it?
Rev. REESE: Well, the change really started after John Paul II was elected. Under Paul VI, the rules were quite clear. He encouraged translations that conveyed meaning, that were clear and encouraged them to be - actually be beautiful in their wording, whereas there were some opponents who wanted a very literal, word-for-word translation. Those people have now won out in the Vatican and so that this is now being pushed by the Vatican, frankly, on many bishops who were reluctant to do it, but out of loyalty to the Vatican voted for the changes.
So...let me get this straight. "And also with you" is beautiful and full of meaning while "And with your spirit" is ugly and meaningless? Are you sure you want to argue that, Citizen Reese?
BTW, "translation" does not mean the same thing as "interpretation", which is the hoodoo Reese is trying to sneak by us. But you kiddies are too smart for that, aren't you?
HANSEN: Yeah, the bishop's conference approved the language changes slightly in variation from what the Vatican wanted. What happens now?
Rev. REESE: Well, now the text goes back to Rome for approval. And any changes that the Americans want will have to also be done in consultation because what we're trying for, of course, is an English translation that can be used all over the world. That means the Philippines, England, Australia, Asia and Africa. It's gonna take a while for all the negotiation to go on to the - finally get the final text.
HANSEN: Is there a deeper, internal political issue here?
Rev. REESE: Well, I think there's a couple of issues. One is, why can't the English-speaking church determine its own translation? That's the way, after Vatican II, it was stated that, you know, the local bishop's conferences would do these translations and then they'd be approved by Rome. Now it's kind of being switched, that the emphasis is coming from Rome and then the local bishops have to approve it. So it's another case of this growing centralization that has been taking place in the church.
This is not at all difficult to understand. That is what makes me suspicious of those who oppose the new translation, which is merely a correction of past abuses. Words do have inherent meaning apart from the understanding of those reading, saying, or hearing them, don't they? After all, we're Catholics, not protestants or Word Nazis like Jacques Derrida.
Of course, we could have avoided all this nonsense [and a lot of heartache and lost souls] if we had kept the Tridentine Mass and had continued to celebrate it in Latin, the universal language of the Universal Church.
The other thing that's kind of strange here is, a lot of this push over the last 10 years in the Vatican was done by people for whom English was not their first language. I mean, we have Spanish-speaking cardinals, German-speaking cardinals who are now telling the English-speaking world how to pray in English. This is really kind of silly.
Blah blah blah.
HANSEN: Mm hmm. When all is said and done, does this mean new missals are going to be printed?
Rev. REESE: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, when then finally get it all worked out, they're going to have to print up new missals, which all the churches will have to buy.
Oh, Margaret! I do feel faint! Someone may have to cut the budget of the Woodstock [Apropos, no?] Theological Center to pay for new missalettes!
HANSEN: Do you think people might stay away from mass?
Ha! You wish!
Rev. REESE: Oh, no, I don't think - I mean, I don't want to blow this into a crisis and say that people are going to walk out over these translations. I certainly hope not. I think that people will kind of scratch their heads and wonder what's going on and then shrug their shoulders and say, okay, let's get on with it.
This is merely the first step [albeit a vital one] in bringing Catholics back to Mass and bringing more people back to the Catholic faith.
Next up...the music!
HANSEN: Father Thomas Reese of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. Thanks a lot for your time.
Rev. REESE: Certainly.