In Praise of Clunky Translations

November 23, 2009

+AMDG+

On November 17 the USCCB approved the final segments of a new English version of the Roman Missal.  A few have already criticized the Vox Clara translation as “slavishly literal” (here) and disrespectful of the “natural rhythm and cadences of the English language” (here).  On purely grammatical and stylistic grounds, I am actually inclined to agree with these criticisms.  However, a recent rereading of Liturgical Latin, Christine Mohrmann’s slim classic from 1957, has reminded me that slavish literalism and barbarous constructions have always been a hallmark of Christian liturgical language.

Mohrmann—at pains to show that early Christian Latin was hardly the Latin of the “common man”—notes that biblical Latin was marked by precisely those stylistic features most criticized in the new Roman Missal: Read the rest of this entry »