A Classicist Comments on the New Roman Missal

From a Newswise press release:

Michael Fontaine, professor of Classics at Cornell University, studied Latin under the top Vatican Latinist for Pope John Paul II. He comments on the new translation of the Roman Missal, which on Nov. 27 will bring rare changes to the way Catholics worship.

Fontaine says:

“The new translations definitely capture the Latin text much more closely than what Catholics have been reciting in Mass the last fifty years. Interestingly, the changes are actually reversions to the original wording. In Latin the response ‘et cum spiritu tuo’ means ‘and with your spirit as well,’ which sounds strange in English, and is why the phrase may have originally been changed to ‘and also with you.’

“It certainly is common for scholars to disagree about translations from Latin, but in this case it’s not so much a question of misinterpreting the text as it is trying to make technical-philosophical Latin sound natural in English. There is also the issue of churchgoers suddenly having to change a ritual that’s been familiar to them for most of their lives. That goes for anyone about fifty years old or younger.

“Discrepancies in the interpretation of religious texts are common, mainly because the stakes are so high. The phrase ‘it doesn’t make one iota’s difference’ originally referred to a huge debate over the supernatural nature of Jesus. A single letter of the Greek alphabet, iota, split the Catholic Church in half.”