Offended by Drawing

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

Paterson, N.J.

 

Hopeful Vision

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

Tucson, Ariz.

 

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.

Jean Bohr

Director, Office of Ministry Formation

Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

 

Cultural Flavor

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.

 

Historical Cadences

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.

Denver, Colo.

Comments

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 1/22/2007 - 12:36pm
I have before me the rough draft of a short note to America complimenting Tad Dunne on his perceptive and insightful sketches that have been gracing and highlighting the weekly Word column by John R. Donahue, S.J.

I’ve decided to send it, despite Bishop Frank J. Rodimer’s carefully worded misgivings (11/4) concerning what had struck me as a most appropriate caricature: Tad’s drawing illustrating “But it shall not be so among you” (Mk. 10:43), the Gospel passage for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (column dated Oct. 14).

Truth be told, the Latin words on the pompous prelate’s stole “Magister sum, servus es” (“I’m the teacher, you are the slave”) expressed forcefully what Christ warned his followers not to do.

All my confreres who know Bishop Rodimer unanimously describe him as a genuine Christian gentleman, the antithesis of Tad Dunne’s caricatured bishop. His feeling of betrayal is understandable, unless one sees the artist clearly loathing the opposite.

It was not very long ago that Msgr. George W. Casey could write: “We should give up a good deal of our stuffiness: the whole amazing establishment of vestures, head-dress, staffs, thrones, canopies, coats-of-arms, titles, genuflections, ring kissing, deferences, processional order, protocol, etc., that characterizes official people in our church, and so distinguishes them from anything else in this world save, perhaps, the British court at coronation time or maybe some small oriental court left over somewhere from the Middle Ages. Such trappings get more space in the Code of Canon Law than the rights of man, and it means more to some people than the Gospel.”

While much has changed for the better since the Second Vatican Council, an occasional sharp reminder of what Jesus thinks of the few remaining traces of our ecclesiastical stuffiness is healthy and welcome.

Patricia J. Corkery, R.S.M. | 1/22/2007 - 10:47am
The battle regarding language in the English translations of the Bible used in liturgical services goes on. I deeply appreciate your careful and broad coverage of the differing viewpoints—often revealing committed passion to finding the wording that most expresses God’s love and care for all humankind.

Edward Oakes, S.J., in his letter (11/4) expressed the attitude that really fosters antagonism, for the simple reason that he doesn’t seem to understand what it feels like to be a woman who reads his preferred translation of Psalm 8:5: “What is man that thou art mindful of him, the son of man that Thou dost care for him?” Where is one-half of humanity in that prayer of praise? Unlike Father Oakes, I do not read it as an “extraordinarily lovely verse.”

Thirty years ago it would not have bothered me. But English is a living, therefore changing, language. Man is a fully gendered word now. Humankind catches that change and I, a 79-year-old woman who taught English for many of her teaching years, find the ICEL translation—“What is humankind that you remember them, the human race that you care for them?”—an “extraordinarily lovely verse.”

Any living language changes.

America, keep up the dialogue—or should it be called a debate?

Larry N. Lorenzoni, S.D.B. | 1/22/2007 - 12:36pm
I have before me the rough draft of a short note to America complimenting Tad Dunne on his perceptive and insightful sketches that have been gracing and highlighting the weekly Word column by John R. Donahue, S.J.

I’ve decided to send it, despite Bishop Frank J. Rodimer’s carefully worded misgivings (11/4) concerning what had struck me as a most appropriate caricature: Tad’s drawing illustrating “But it shall not be so among you” (Mk. 10:43), the Gospel passage for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (column dated Oct. 14).

Truth be told, the Latin words on the pompous prelate’s stole “Magister sum, servus es” (“I’m the teacher, you are the slave”) expressed forcefully what Christ warned his followers not to do.

All my confreres who know Bishop Rodimer unanimously describe him as a genuine Christian gentleman, the antithesis of Tad Dunne’s caricatured bishop. His feeling of betrayal is understandable, unless one sees the artist clearly loathing the opposite.

It was not very long ago that Msgr. George W. Casey could write: “We should give up a good deal of our stuffiness: the whole amazing establishment of vestures, head-dress, staffs, thrones, canopies, coats-of-arms, titles, genuflections, ring kissing, deferences, processional order, protocol, etc., that characterizes official people in our church, and so distinguishes them from anything else in this world save, perhaps, the British court at coronation time or maybe some small oriental court left over somewhere from the Middle Ages. Such trappings get more space in the Code of Canon Law than the rights of man, and it means more to some people than the Gospel.”

While much has changed for the better since the Second Vatican Council, an occasional sharp reminder of what Jesus thinks of the few remaining traces of our ecclesiastical stuffiness is healthy and welcome.

Patricia J. Corkery, R.S.M. | 1/22/2007 - 10:47am
The battle regarding language in the English translations of the Bible used in liturgical services goes on. I deeply appreciate your careful and broad coverage of the differing viewpoints—often revealing committed passion to finding the wording that most expresses God’s love and care for all humankind.

Edward Oakes, S.J., in his letter (11/4) expressed the attitude that really fosters antagonism, for the simple reason that he doesn’t seem to understand what it feels like to be a woman who reads his preferred translation of Psalm 8:5: “What is man that thou art mindful of him, the son of man that Thou dost care for him?” Where is one-half of humanity in that prayer of praise? Unlike Father Oakes, I do not read it as an “extraordinarily lovely verse.”

Thirty years ago it would not have bothered me. But English is a living, therefore changing, language. Man is a fully gendered word now. Humankind catches that change and I, a 79-year-old woman who taught English for many of her teaching years, find the ICEL translation—“What is humankind that you remember them, the human race that you care for them?”—an “extraordinarily lovely verse.”

Any living language changes.

America, keep up the dialogue—or should it be called a debate?

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