New Translation of the Roman Missal – An Open Letter to the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

In the post ‘ In Defence of Tradition ‘ it was  mentioned that we were awaiting the new translation of the Roman Missal . Today I was alerted to the following letter from Dom Anthony Ruff  which is an open letter to the Bishops of the USA. Dom Anthony is a leading liturgical scholar, and although he does not mention  which parts of the Missal he finds unacceptable, that someone of his stature even has concerns does not auger well.

Interestingly, a group representing more than 400 of Ireland’s 4,500 priests have also made an urgent plea to the country’s bishops to postpone the introduction of the new English translation of the Missal for at least another five years. Although I should say that the crux of their objections appears to be that they consider the new translation to be ‘elitist and sexist’!

“Now that my work with ICEL is known publicly, and now that I am not involved in the production of the forthcoming missal, I feel the freedom to speak more openly. I hope I am able to do so with wise judgment, concern for the good of the Church, and respect for everyone involved in a new missal which is, I am convinced, a mistake.” (Dom Anthony Ruff O.S.B.)

Anthony Ruff | FEBRUARY 14, 2011

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies,

With a heavy heart, I have recently made a difficult decision concerning the new English missal. I have decided to withdraw from all my upcoming speaking engagements on the Roman Missal in dioceses across the United States. After talking with my confessor and much prayer, I have concluded that I cannot promote the new missal translation with integrity. I’m sure bishops want a speaker who can put the new missal in a positive light, and that would require me to say things I do not believe.

I love the Church, I love the sacred liturgy, I love chant in Latin and English, and I treasure being involved with all these as a monk and priest. It has been an honor to serve until recently as chairman of the music committee of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) that prepared all the chants for the new missal. But my involvement in that process, as well as my observation of the Holy See’s handling of scandal, has gradually opened my eyes to the deep problems in the structures of authority of our church.

The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church. When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority, how much deception and mischief have marked this process—and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.

I see a good deal of disillusionment with the Catholic Church among my friends and acquaintances. Some leave the Catholic Church out of conviction, some gradually drift away, some join other denominations, some remain Catholic with difficulty. My response is to stay in this church for life and do my best to serve her. This I hope to do by stating the truth as I see it, with charity and respect. I would be ready to participate in future liturgical projects under more favorable conditions.

I am sorry for the difficulties I am causing others by withdrawing, but I know this is the right thing to do. I will be praying for you and all leaders in our church.

Pax in Christo,

Fr. Anthony Ruff, O.S.B.
Anthony Ruff, O.S.B., is a Benedictine monk of Saint John’s Abbey and a professor of liturgy and Gregorian chant. He was on the committee which drafted the 2007 document “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is founder of the National Catholic Youth Choir and blogs at Pray Tell. His letter above to the U.S. bishops is printed in its entirety.

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10 Responses to New Translation of the Roman Missal – An Open Letter to the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

  1. sixupman says:

    “… imposed on national [bishops’] conferences in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority…”?

    A different Mass in each diocese, at the whim of the ordinary, Tower of Babel indeed!


  2. bwr47 says:

    This raises more questions than it answers, first and foremost about the stance of Fr Anthony Ruff.

    What are his objections? Does anyone know? Could he not have given at least one or two examples for us to consider? Is it that the new translation is in some way inaccurate or lacking reverence? Or is it that it is not “inclusive” enough? It would be good if someone could provide a link so that we can see what the real problems are meant to be. Being a scholar does not guarantee, sadly, that a person is faithful to the authority of Christ’s Church.

    One of the comments on the original letter includes the following:

    “You candidly state that your problem is with the Church, as you state that you view the authority of the Church as “top down impositions” and there are “deep problems in the structures of authority in the Church”. It is ironic that the aberrations in the Church today, from liturgy to moral scandal … arise from clergy and laity who, for whatever reason, are not obedient to the teaching of the Magisterium in word and deed and as you say “drift away” and “leave”. ”

    The “Catholic Champion” blogsite ( refers to statements made by Fr Ruff on the “Pray Tell” blog, noting that the latter blog “espouses liberal slants on just about everything concerning Catholicism”.

    In other words, does Fr Ruff actually have anything interesting to say about the translation (and if so, where is it?) or is this just yet another rant from yet another liberal who objects to having his views curtailed by the Holy See? The Bishops of America and elsewhere have had free reign for too long, and the results have been catastrophic. A few more “top-down impositions” may be exactly what we need.

    (And as a note of lighter relief, should that be “free reign” or “free rein”? Both seem to have a case to be made. Toad’s views especially welcome!)


  3. Gertrude says:

    In many ways, I agree with you. The point of posting this letter wasas an example that there is not wholesale agreement that the new translation is what I hope the majority have been waiting for. Personally, I cannot see anything that I would particularly question, though I must state that I unashamedly would like to see the 1962 Missal reinstated.

    The point in the previous post about the translation being ‘a step towards ecumenism’ is, I think, I trifle ironic, as it would appear with Anglicanorum Coetibus that the Anglican Rite may bring their own liturgy with them! In fact, there are parts of this that are more Catholic than ours.

    We live in interesting times do you not think?


  4. bwr47 says:

    Thank you, Gertrude.

    Yes, these are interesting times (though ’twas ever thus). I am merely a visitor here, and an occasional one at that, but I suppose that when I read this post this morning it did just raise some broader questions in my mind.

    The world is divided between those who believe and those who do not. Among the believers, there is division between the faiths. Among Christians, there is division between Catholics, Orthodox and uncountable different Protestant groups. Within the Catholic fold, there are further divisions. CPS would hold itself out, I think, as a blog for what we might call “faithful Catholics”. This raises the question, though, of where we pin our loyalty. In essence, it seems to me that as faithful Catholics we commit ourselves to the teachings of the successor of Peter. We accept that the Catholic Church, though made up of weak and fallible people, nevertheless speaks with the infallible authority of Christ. We may twist and turn and struggle before we get to that point of view, but through prayer and grace we may indeed be willing to embrace the full teaching of the Church. Once we are there, we really do find a peace in our faith as we accept that teaching in all humility, even in the areas with which we do not instinctively agree. And we find that when we approach those difficulties with such humility, the wisdom of the Church is always revealed to us in the end.

    If we impose that discipline on ourselves, it seems to me that we can also expect the same degree of obedience and humility from our priests. As soon as we hear of a priest who has a “BUT” the alarm bells should ring: in this case, we hear that the priest in question “loves the Church … BUT”. Once I get to that point, I lose interest in what he has to say – any priest who starts to question the full teaching authority of the Church is just one more Protestant. Martin Luther, of course, loved the Church, “BUT” … . And the rest is history. I say I lose interest, and that is perhaps not strictly true, because it is indeed interesting to know where he is coming from, but I come to what he says with all my armour in place.

    In common with most contributors to this site, I suspect that I am particularly intolerant of those priests who want a more liberal, inclusive, lay-led Church. In reality, though (and no doubt much more controversially for readers of this blog) I feel the same about the other recent post on Bishop Lazo, who ran in the opposite direction into the arms of the Society of St Pius X. (The fact that I happen to share many of Lazo’s sentiments is not the point.)

    No doubt, both men spoke out in good faith, honestly believing that their own perception of the truth was somehow better than that of the Church. But in the end, the Church is not a democracy and we (priests and laity alike) are sometimes called simply to obedience. Fr Ruff is fully entitled to express his opinions, of course, but his reference to “deep problems in the structures of authority in the Church” suggests a spirit of dissent.

    As faithful Catholics, it seems to me that we are meant to maintain loyalty to the Pope, as successor to Peter, in all that he teaches. We may be uncomfortable with certain aspects of our Catholic faith, and we can all play our part to encourage reverence and good practice around us. We know that there are dissenters lurking in every shadow and I guess I am just wondering if CPS really wishes to give publicity to the views of men who do not – for opposite reasons, one suspects – profess full loyalty to the Holy See.

    If I have completely missed the point, I am quite happy to be shot down!


  5. Gertrude says:

    No, you haven’t missed the point at all and I will not start the answer with a ‘but’..
    I cannot speak for all the authors here on CP&S. We are, as you might imagine individuals of different ages, different countries, and possibly at different stages in our journey of faith. Some are cradle Catholics, and others are converts to the One True Church, but on one thing we agree;our total acceptance of the teachings of Holy Faith, our obedience and loyalty to the successor of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI and the Magisterium of the Church. We are Roman Catholics – not liberal Catholics – not born again Catholics – not Anglo Catholics or any other such. Now to your point about allowing publicity to ‘dissent’. I was responsible for the above post and as such I feel that it is both healthy, and educating to be aware that others do not necessarily share my opinion. That is not to say they are wrong and I am right, it is to say, as I believe Our Blessed Lord would say – I will listen.
    In the context of Father Ruff, when a liturgist of his scholarship feels unable to commend a translation, I would like to know why. I agree this is not yet clear, at least, not to me, and the fact that it has the approval of the Holy See means that I will accept it – totally. It does not mean though that I cannot make use of the gift of free will in trying to comprehend what the problems might be when his reasons do become clear, I am neither interested in politics or ego – if they are involved, but I am passionate about the way we conduct ourselves, as the laity, before the Throne of Grace, and that our liturgy should be worthy to bring to the King of Kings in the sacred mysteries. It was on this basis alone that the above has appeared.
    I hope that in some small way this clarifies at least this author’s position – and God love you for your comments.

    Postscript: Bishop Lazo was reconciled to Holy Church and his actions are now God’s business, not ours but are a reminder to us that the path to truth does cause us to have ‘dark nights of the soul’ during our journey.


  6. bwr47 says:

    Thank you again, Gertrude.

    Yes – we are in the dark as to his real views. And yes – it is very clear that the authors of the articles on this blog are all committed Catholics who are sharing their faith in a constructive way, from all sorts of different angles. Much of it is very enriching.

    I suppose that as I mature (belatedly) in my own faith, I respect obedience more and “scholarship” less. (In connection with abortion issues, for example, some “scholars” (professors at top US universities) have come out with truly horrendous views.) My only reservation was whether there was an underlying message emerging that might not really be the intention of the blog. Your reply helps to allay that concern.

    Anyway, thank you for such an open and prompt reply. I will back off now, and leave others to share their views. May God bless you and all on this blog.


  7. Brother Burrito says:

    bwr47 at 17:02, and 18:09,

    Well said that man, twice!

    The true mark of a Catholic is their solidarity with the Pope of their time. (The Lord, alone, knows how many people disagree with him!)

    Thank you for discerning the wide range of ‘Catholicity’ of this blog’s contributors, and for your kind words.

    Fear not, you will not be shot down: any projectiles launched at you will only be flares, to assist your landing, if you so wish.



  8. benedict says:

    The forthcoming missal is but a part of a larger pattern of top-down impositions by a central authority that does not consider itself accountable to the larger church. When I think of how secretive the translation process was, how little consultation was done with priests or laity, how the Holy See allowed a small group to hijack the translation at the final stage, how unsatisfactory the final text is, how this text was imposed on national conferences of bishops in violation of their legitimate episcopal authority, how much deception and mischief have marked this process—and then when I think of Our Lord’s teachings on service and love and unity…I weep.

    Sorry but is he speaking about the new translation or the way the No was introduced post Vatican II?


  9. Grant says:

    The New Translation is wonderful and I can hardly wait until the first Sunday of Advent when we start using it. Thank you Holy Father.


  10. Pius Parsch, Jr. says:

    Well, I have read as many of the various liturgists and bishops on the subject as I can stomach; what a sad group most of these uneducated bishops are these days–safe, mediocre, middle managers at best, and cowards at worst–afraid of not getting their precious “recognitio.” Afraid of standing up for any of their priests in the sex crisis who are falsely accused.
    . Like always these company men (from Wuerl to Herzog) have become fascinated with process and perhaps catechesis rather than product with their babble about the greed and the grey redactions of the text. Like most small minds, they got hung up in the subjective tenses instead of listening to the poetry. One wonders if any of the ICEL crowd ever read Shakespeare or Milton or Churchill seriously. And like any monopoly, these bishops and liturgists really do not have to care what their consumers think.
    But at no point do I sense that anyone ever consulted the professional athletes of our language–namely writers and poets, or even know what elevated style is all about. Here we have much to learn from the Anglicans. While there are some exceptions in the new translation, it is Latinate beyond any Anglo-Saxon recognition: Oh how we must have longed to say “consubstantial” once again after the almost equally awful “one in being with the Father.” And then we get weird words like “dewfall” (I kid you not) in the second Eucharistic prayer: O for a consubstantial dewfall!!
    And where the klutzy ICEL English of the first translation did have some fine moments (the clausula, for example, of “through Christ our Lord through whom all good things come” with its steady march of spondees), these have been removed from the New Translation.
    All the poets must have been out of town the weekend it took them to Latinize our English Language. And we still have the absolutely ugly sound (to say nothing of the pun direct) at the offering of the wine that ends with the clanking “spiritual drink.” At least the old missal’s Latin had some sonority to it. i defy anyone to let that “-ink” sound echo in the nave. . I too weep for our Church.

    Dom Ruff is right. Our Church and our glorious language deserve better than they got.

    Pius Parsch, Jr.


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