I sincerely hope that I am not the only one offended by the cartoon of the ugly prelate accompanying the commentary on the liturgical readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (The Word, 10/14). It is not worthy of the commentary, to which it gives a distasteful flavor, nor surely of America, which has always maintained such high Catholic journalistic standards. If the secular press carried it, I’d be upset, but for America to do so, as a teacher who strives to serve ad maiorem Dei gloriam, I can’t help but feel a bit betrayed.
(Most Rev.) Frank J. Rodimer
Bishop of Paterson
The recent excellent article The Catholic Tradition as a Resource at the End of Life (10/7), by Myles N. Sheehan, S.J., and The Apologetics of Beauty (9/16), by the Rev. Andrew Greeley, reflect very beautifully and comprehensively the movement of God’s spirit within the core of our Catholic heritage. Through presentations like these America communicates what is most healthy, vibrant and engaging in Catholicism in the United States today. God is blessing us abundantly with compassionate understanding and hopeful vision, despite so many institutional cautions and constrains.
(Msgr.) Tom Cahalane
Single Lay Minister
It was with pleasure that I, as a single laywoman, saw the heading on Of Other Things (10/7): Poverty, chastity and obedience are for everyone. That’s for sure, I agreedand I was right with Sister Deborah Cerullo up to the second-last paragraph, where she stated and of course, for both marriage and religious vows, the virtues they contain are sometimes very difficult to live. Suddenly we weren’t talking about everyone, and again, as a single lay minister, I was invisible. The religious world was collapsed into the folks with public vows.
Hence, this letter, which will hopefully sensitize Sister that the rest of us, especially those of us who choose the vocation of religious lay person, also try to embody these virtues in our daily lives.
Director, Office of Ministry Formation
Diocese of Joliet, Ill.
I believe that the masterful article, ICEL and Liturgical Translations (10/7), by Ronald D. Witherup, S.S., will go down as a milestone on the long, difficult road to a faithful, noble and elegant translation of the Latin liturgical texts into English. His article was balanced, respectful and insightful.
Father Witherup dropped a bomb when he said that the situation points to a serious problem in the use of international commissions for the translation of universal liturgical texts. I’ve never heard of this idea. But it makes much sense. Perhaps we should leave it to the individual episcopal conferences of the different countries to translate their liturgical texts so they have their own cultural flavor. I know that there is no uniform Spanish translation for Spain and the Spanish-speaking countries. Colombia, for example, has its own because of the language and cultural nuances. There might even be some healthy competition among the English-speaking episcopal conferences to translate the liturgical texts with as much fidelity, nobility, poetry and music as possible.
Gino Dalpiaz, C.S.
Stone Park, Ill.
As someone who has done a bit of translating now and then, I enjoyed reading the article, ICEL and Liturgical Translations, by Ronald D. Witherup, S.S. (10/7). I especially appreciated the author’s refusal to categorize every translation ever made into the either/or Procrustean bed of literal versus dynamic. As he rightly says, there is a continuum of literal fidelity to the original text; and the decision about where to place a particular translation often depends on the nature of that original.
But I wonder if the Bible, with its famous paratactic style (short independent clauses strung together, with very few lengthy subordinate clauses attached) is all that hard to translate literally. The Bible has value precisely for its simplicity and accessibility to the barely literate. This simplicity of style must surely be the reason why the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version, both explicitly and deliberately literal translations, remain the most popular in Protestant churches and with the book buying public.
One must also praise Father Witherup when he opines that the primary purpose of liturgical translations is to foster prayer. Moreover, liturgical translations demand serous attention to poetic sensitivities. But for precisely that reason I found puzzling, even disconcerting, his praise of ICEL’s translation of Psalm 8:5 (RSV: what is man that Thou are mindful of him, the son of man that Thou dost care for him?). ICEL renders that extraordinarily lovely verse as What is humankind that you remember them, the human race that you care for them?
This translation is not only garishly ungrammatical (humankind and human race are singular nouns, but their attendant pronouns are plural); it is also irritatingly unpleasant to the ear. The fact that such a weird rendering would not strike every member of the ICEL translation team as being obviously off key only goes to prove the truth lurking in the old joke about the camel being the one mammal produced by a committee. It also reminds us that this entire dispute is one that could easily wipe out the memory of the historical cadences of the Bible from the worshiping church.
Edward T. Oakes, S.J.