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The Words We Profess Christopher Comden Over the past few years, the proposed changes in the translations of the Latin texts of the Mass have received considerable attention in scholarly journals as well as the popular media. Perhaps the most debated and important changes are those proposed for the NiceneConstantinopolitan Creed (henceforth “the Creed”), which is professed at every Sunday Mass. The development of the Creed has mostly been a process of responding to heresy by clarifying particular beliefs. The Church has the need and duty to express her faith clearly. This duty can be difficult when translating the Creed into the languages of the people who profess it. When the bishops of the United States met in June 2006 to discuss the translation of the Mass, they debated whether the phrase consubstantialem Patri should be rendered as “consubstantial with the Father” or, rather, as “one in Being with the Father.” The latter translation is the one currently in use in the dioceses of the United States and Canada. Although “consubstantial” is the most literal translation of the Latin text, previous translations have not used the term. The Saint Joseph Daily Missal (Catholic Book Publishing Company) variously translated consubstantialem as “of one being” (1950, 1961), “of one substance” (1966), and “one in being” (2002). The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), established in 1963 during Vatican Council II, is charged with translating Latin liturgical texts for eleven English-speaking episcopal conferences, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in accord with the directives of the Holy See. The proposal by ICEL submitted to the USCCB translated consubstantialem as “consubstantial.” However, the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL), recently renamed the Bishops’ Committee on Divine   The latest “typical” edition of the Roman Missal (2002) permits the use of the Apostles’ Creed instead of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, especially (præsertim) during Lent and Eastertide: rubrical note 19 in Missale Romanum, 3rd typical ed. (Vatican City: Vatican Press, 2002) p. 513.   For a transcript of this discussion, see “What the Bishops Said…,” Adoremus Bulletin 12 (July/August 2006) 6-9. Antiphon 13.2 (2009): 126-131 127 The Words We Profess Worship (BCDW), amended this proposal to retain the phrase “one in Being.” The bishops in favor of the amendment cited important documents in the interests of intelligibility: • “The Christian people, as far as is possible, should be able to understand them [the liturgical texts and rites] with ease and take part in them fully, actively, and as a community.” • “They [the rites] should be within the people’s powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation.” • “Whenever a particular Latin term has a rich meaning that is difficult to render into a modern language (such as the words munus, famulus, consubstantialis, propitius, etc.) various solutions may be employed in the translations, whether the term be translated by a single vernacular word or by several, or by the coining of a new word, or perhaps by the adaptation, transcription, or transliteration of the same term into a language that is different from that of the original text, or the use of an already existing word which may bear various meanings.” The bishops opposed to the amendment – that is, those who favored the ICEL rendering of consubstantialem Patri as “consubstantial with the Father” – likewise put forth their arguments. First, they said, the phrase “one in Being with the Father” could easily be misinterpreted, since “being with” X is not the same thing as having X’s nature/essence . Second, it is important to use the same translation as that approved by other episcopal conferences; England and Wales, Scotland , and Australia had approved the use of “consubstantial.” Third, the change from “one in Being” to “consubstantial” would provide a catechetical opportunity to explain the meaning of the Latin text. In the end, the vote to repeal the amendment was 81 in favor and 109   Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium (4 December 1963) [henceforth: SC], in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport NY: Costello, 1988) 21. All citations of the Vatican II documents are from this edition...


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