Recent popes have emphasized orthodoxy and hierarchy, particularly in the West, where religious identity is increasingly fluid. Catholic hospitals and schools have been required to more clearly espouse church teachings, and Pope Benedict XVI has stressed the sole truth of Catholicism over other faiths, even declining this month to pray with Hindus, Jews and others at an interreligious event.
The new translation changes the majority of sentences in the Mass. The prayers and call-and-response dialogue between the priest and the congregation are different, transforming the dialogue that Catholics under 40 have used in church their entire lives. Some leaders warn that the shift could cause “ritual whiplash” among those accustomed to a worship script so familiar that most recite it from memory.
Reaction to the changes has been intense, in some ways fueling a Catholic culture war that began when the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s imposed far more sweeping changes designed to open up and modernize the church. Some traditionalists say the new translation of the ritual is richer and — because it’s less conversational — more mysterious and spiritual.
“At first I thought it was an affront, the Vatican coming down on us. But after thinking about it, I see it as something that will bring us all back toward the center,” said Emily Strand, 35, a former campus minister at the University of Dayton who has attended Mass regularly throughout her life. “Vatican II was an excuse for people to do whatever they wanted with the liturgy.”
But more modern Catholics, and some who are already disaffected, say the new language is an awkward imposition that will distance people from the church. The translation “wouldn’t affect me going [to church] or not,’’ said Vilma Linares, who was walking near St. Matthew’s Cathedral earlier this week with a friend at lunchtime. “But the less conversational the Mass, the more they will alienate people.”
Erie, Pa., Bishop Donald Trautman says that such words as “consubstantial” and “chalice” and a Jesus “born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin” won’t help Catholics get closer to God.
“We have to keep in mind these are prayer texts being used by priests at a Mass,” he said. “People should be able to understand them when they are heard.”
Others, including clergy, have protested that the new translation replaces ones approved by the U.S. bishops.
Perhaps the most basic change will be when the priest says: “The Lord be with you.” The congregation will no longer say “And also with you.” The new response is “And with your spirit.”