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placeholder January 9, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
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Downside of translation

I find myself compelled to write, despite Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees. “You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.” (Luke 11:42).

In Latin class, “calix” meant cup, a simple, everyday object. “Calix” is the root of the English word chalice, but the three Gospels with the institution narrative all use cup.

Scripture should inform the translation for Mass. Jesus’s words over the cup vary in Luke, Matthew and Mark. All are different from what we’ve inherited in Latin. If the blood of Christ can be shed “por todos” in Spanish, it can be shed “for all” in English. It’s been suggested that “pro multis” could be translated as “for the multitude,” which is not exclusionary. While praying at Mass, I don’t want to have to think about subtle distinctions or theological arguments.

What about the burdens the new translation places on those for whom English is a second or third language?

I am not a fan of chatty presiders, adding “Good morning,” or “Have a nice day.” I don’t like being asked to applaud young people for performing liturgical ministries. Those who like the tone of the new translation may hope that it will discourage presiders who act like game show hosts.

My hunch is that the opposite will happen. Well-intentioned presiders who seek to make the liturgy accessible may react to the new language by being even more chatty.

Maureen Lahiff
Oakland


Problem with translation


Apart from its esthetic infelicities, which are truly embarrassing, the new translation of the Roman Missal contains at least one doctrinal flaw which merits serious consideration.

In the consecration of the chalice the Latin words “pro multis” cannot adequately be rendered “for many.” The implication of exclusion is impossible to avoid in English: how many? Who are left out? The correct rendering would be “for the many,” i.e., the vast multitude redeemed by Christ.

There is no definite or indefinite article in Latin, so it must be supplied in English. To omit it is to ignore the constant teaching of the Church on the universal salvific will of God and the words of Jesus, “When I am lifted up (on the cross) I will draw all to myself” (John 12, 32). On Good Friday the Church prays for all, even for atheists. This essential teaching should not be blurred in the central prayer of the Eucharist.

One must hope that this will be corrected in a second edition of the Missal, a standard procedure in any publishing enterprise.

Rev. Basil De Pinto
Piedmont

[Editor’s note: The U.S. Bishops’ website has a lengthy discussion regarding: “pro multis.” For more information, Google “USCCB, pro multis.”]


Defend religious freedom


The Christian church has a sincerely held belief that it is important for each person to follow God’s call. God sometimes calls gay people to family life. In the Mormon church there is a belief that there are so many “spirit children” waiting to be born on earth that it is the duty of everyone, gay and straight, to marry and have as many children as possible. While one or both of these ideas may be foreign to us as Catholics, the principles of religious freedom and toleration should be familiar to all Americans.

So long as the civil government has no compelling interest in, say, increasing or decreasing the population, it must allow each person to do whatever peculiar things they believe are important. While each church’s own laws can bind its members to behave in one way or another, the defense of religious freedom means ensuring that our civil laws promote freedom and toleration for all churches.

For example, suppose that someone proposed a law prohibiting gay men and lesbian women from entering into heterosexual relationships and bearing children. Though such a law might be practically irrelevant to us Catholics, it would cause distress to our Mormon neighbors, so we would oppose that law. Proposition 8, which intends to prohibit same-sex marriages, would have no practical effect on either Catholic or Mormon practice, but it would cause distress to our united Christian neighbors, so again we should all oppose that law.

In the same way, we would hope if anyone proposed a law to prohibit tithing, or the use of rosaries, or confessional secrecy or any other practice important to Catholics, that our neighbors of all religions would join in defending our right to engage in that practice.

Sharon Silveira
Union City

[Editor’s note: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith teaches that “clear and emphatic opposition [to the legal recognition of same-sex unions] is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws,” reasoning “society owes its continued survival to the family, founded on marriage [as between one man and one woman].” For more information regarding the Catholic position on marriage go on-line to www.usccb.org and the “USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.”]


Shakespeare a devout Catholic


I was very pleased to see a brief article (Voice, Dec. 12) on an opinion piece by “L’Osservatore Romano” regarding Shakespeare and his religious faith. It is a fascinating story of historic-literary sleuthing that began in the 1800s after Catholic Emancipation in England (1829) and has finally been established in the 21st century.

If your readers wish to examine for themselves the fascinating evidence confirming that William Shakespeare was a devout if secret Catholic in Elizabethan Protestant England, may I suggest the following well-regarded sources to start with: “In Search of Shakespeare” (book and DVD, PBS; accessible, balanced), by Michael Wood; “Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare” (erudite, scholarly), by Clare Asquith; and “The Quest for Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon and the Church of Rome” (popular reading), by Joseph Pearce.

These sources also discuss to some extent Shakespeare’s defiantly Catholic family, some of whom chose to go to prison rather than compromise their Catholic faith. All of these books vividly describe the struggles of a persecuted Catholic minority in a hostile environment and the price that its members had to pay if they wanted to keep practicing their faith in secret and still survive (and even thrive) in society in general.

Oscar M. Ramirez
Antioch


Don’t worry, be happy


I was listening to talk radio. The topic was about atheism. The man was criticizing Christians and their display of nativity scenes around public places, and “In God we Trust” on currency among other criticisms.

All I can say is, why not ignore the nativity scenes and the Christians instead of taking it as an affront to his humanity. Why not just go on being an atheist ignoring God and be happy.

Sandra Mortimore
Walnut Creek


Ending the spiral of violence


Like others, I was aghast at reading letters in the last two issues advocating for the death penalty by quoting St. Paul’s epistles and Church dogma. My concern is that the casual reader will use these arguments to justify a spiral of violence that must end.

My background in this area is not as an attorney, but as a former seminarian who has spent most of the past 40 years participating in social justice committees. I was trained by Pace Y Bene in non-violence and am currently a member of the Pax Christi Chapter at St. Leander Parish. Many of us were taught to not get into a squirting contest with a skunk, but I have read and discussed this topic enough to see the pro-death penalty ideology that continues to propel the culture of violence.

Officially sanctioned violence is a form of scapegoating in some form or another. Many societies have adopted this practice since pre-biblical times. Redemptive violence says “If you kill the right person, you will save the world.” It does not work. It does not save us. Look at the story of the gospel from the point of the victim.

If you support the death penalty, you support the crucifixion of Jesus. The best judicial system in the world crucified the best person known to the world. Do you trust any judicial system? Even the Church used to burn people at the stake for no reason that we in the modern world would consider reasonable.

We are all called to create the kingdom of God — not the kingdom of man. Gandhi forced many to review what is possible as Jesus taught us. Gandhi demonstrated that we can challenge the “system” without violence. He challenged racism and war using Jesus’s teaching. Our faith is the kingdom of God teaching love — not violence.

Ernie Lopez
Castro Valley


Jesus on the death penalty


The apologies for the death penalty are becoming an exercise in ridiculousness and futility. If the strongest arguments are that Pope John Paul II was not a penologist and that this country only executed a “paltry” 46, then they have no credibility.

Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee have been shown to execute innocent men. They would not reconsider those cases despite pleas from around the world, including the Vatican. The decision to go ahead with these executions was authorized by a Supreme Court that now consists of six out of nine Catholic justices.

The imprisonment and execution of an innocent is a travesty of justice. I have seen it with my own eyes, and it is a measure of the decline of society to openly wish for the death of an innocent. This is no better than abortion, or war crime.

Jesus Christ gave us the greatest defense argument against the death penalty with these eight little words: “Let he without sin, cast the first stone.” Hard to argue with that.

Xavier R. Baeza
San Francisco

[Editor’s note: Essentially, the Church limits capital punishment to those cases when it would be necessary to defend life and not as a punishment for crimes committed. Today, cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” (CCC 2267; cf. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae 56)]


Dialog between laity, clerics


Jesus, as a young boy, eagerly engaged Jewish scholars in spirited discussion. These leaders were not used to being challenged. They expected people to simply accept. Jesus prodded them to explain, listen, argue and perhaps even learn.

Things have not changed much. Our insular hierarchy seems to have embraced the enervating but contented strategy of the Jewish scholars, giving pronouncements with little explanation and brooking no question or input. Priests appear loath to emulate the young Christ’s willingness to intellectually risk back-and-forth intermingling with non-clergy.

All significant Church communication is one-way — hierarchy to laity. The Mass, parish bulletins, homilies, diocesan publications, letters from bishops or the Vatican, and even buildings, altar rails, vestments, etc. are all well-crafted to hamper lay inquiry.

There is no medium for clergy/lay interchange or even a way to ask questions on Church or societal issues — much less expect a response. Instead, carefully nuanced missives are lobbed from the altar, whereupon the clergy quickly exits.

One wonders why bishops and priests, with their extensive training, seem frightened to join in lay discussion. Dialogue with other than fellow clerics seems to have been bred out of priestly life.

There are dozens of subjects to explore. One example:

A recent Vatican announcement stated the world needs a single authority to assume sovereignty over all nations, and actively control world economic life. That astounding and chilling idea merits discussion.

An ongoing priest/lay dialogue forum needs to become part of the Catholic family. The young Jesus would join in. Our hierarchy would balk — from afar.

Joe Moran
Orinda

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