Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican’s Prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, reportedly sent a letter to Church prelates worldwide, instructing them to adjust the translation of a phrase in the middle of the Catholic Mass’s words of consecration. The translation of the expression “pro multis” is to be changed to read “for many” rather than “for all,” as it currently appears.Personally, I think this is a fine idea--I hate the so-called "dynamic" translations of the ICEL, though I hasten to add that dynamic translation is not, in principle, itself a bad thing. It is, in fact, necessary to some degree in every translation, since it is not possible to translate from one language to another--let alone from one time and culture to another--without engaging in a rather significant act of interpretation right from the start. But there is dynamism and then there is dynamism, and the ICEL clearly gets carried away from time to time.
The argument, for folks who have only been going to Mass for 35 years, has to do with the question of whether heretical views might be derived from the overly dynamic translation of the phrase into vernacular languages. If you say that Our Lord poured out his blood "for all", according to some, that suggests a kind of universalism that the Church clearly finds rather suspicious (though it is not condemned). The expression "for many" gives you that nice hedge just in case some folks don't make it. Of course, there is almost always a possibility for heresy when it comes to unpacking conversational implicatures: the expression "for many" could be understood as meaning that Christ's sacrifice was not sufficient to save everyone, which is even more heretical than the suggestion of universalism. However, the expression "for many" is, at least, a more literal translation of what is in the normative Latin text of the Mass, so some suggest it is prudent to err on the side of safety by being literal whenever possible.
Be that as it may, the debate is only relevant to Masses not said in Latin, since the normative Latin text of the Mass retains the traditional expression "pro multis", "for many", itself a kind of dynamic translation, since the Greek original, peri pollôn, is found only in Matthew and Mark. According to Luke Our Lord said that his blood was poured out only huper humôn, "for you"--presumably a reference to the disciples, who were the only ones in the room with him. I wonder why the wackos don't want to the text to read that way, since it's obviously even more restrictive than "for many". Maybe they don't like it because it appears to refer to a group that was exclusively Jewish.
Of course, what could be said here is that "for you" is at least a literal translation of the Greek text, and yet we can still interpret it as meaning not "for you, that is, just those of you who are here listening to me now," but rather an apostrophe along the lines of "for you men and women of all nations" or something like that--that is, the equivalent of "for all". Or we could say that what "for you" means is "for you men and women of all times and places who accept me as Lord and persevere in your faith until the day that I come again in glory to take with me those whom my Father foreknew and chose from before time to abide with him in glory." You decide which is the more dynamic translation here, and get back to me.
Or we could just become Johannines, and leave out the institution narrative altogether. That would be consistent with one Gospel text, though not with the other three, nor with St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, which, by the way, contains neither "pro multis" nor "pro vobis". I guess St. Paul was one of those ICEL heretics who decided that it was OK for him to tamper with the words of Our Lord. How did he manage to become such a softee 1900 years before Vatican II? Man, the deleterious results of that Council are everywhere! The best solution, obviously, is to return to a Latin Mass where the priest recites the entire Canon silently to himself. No danger of heresy there!
If there are so many variant texts here, and if the meanings of the various expressions are so close, what is all the fuss about anyway? Apparently not much:
Cardinal Arinze’s letter says that, as supported by previous declarations from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “there is no doubt whatsoever regarding the validity of Masses celebrated with the use of a duly approved formula containing a formula equivalent to ‘for all.’”The problem is only that the expression "for all" is not so much a translation but rather "an explanation of the sort that belongs properly to catechesis". You wouldn't want explanatory materials in the text of your prayers, after all--that might lead to greater understanding or something. Better to leave it mysterious.
“Indeed,” the cardinal continued, “the formula ‘for all’ would undoubtedly correspond to a correct interpretation of the Lord’s intention expressed in the text. It is a dogma of faith that Christ died on the Cross for all men and women (cf. John 11:52; 2 Corinthians 5,14-15; Titus 2,11; 1 John 2,2).”
From a conservative and aesthetic point of view, however, there is no doubt that the Cardinal is right:
Arinze gave as reasons for change the Gospels’ specific reference to “many” rather than “all,” the consistent Latin use of the phrase “pro multis” and never “pro omnibus,” the consistent use of translations equivalent to “pro multis” in the various Oriental Rites, and the document “Liturgiam authenticam’s” insistence that “efforts should be made to be more faithful to the Latin texts in the typical editions.”With that I think we can all agree, and I look forward to the speedy implementation of the change.
The Vatican’s Sacraments chief also noted that, “the expression ‘for many,’ while remaining open to the inclusion of each human person, is reflective also of the fact that this salvation is not brought about in some mechanistic way, without one’s willing or participation; rather, the believer is invited to accept in faith the gift that is being offered and to receive the supernatural life that is given to those who participate in this mystery, living it out in their lives as well so as to be numbered among the ‘many’ to whom the text refers.”