Sir,—In launching his attack upon the new official translation of the Order of Mass, Mr. Anthony Milner has also attacked the procedure of the English Translation Committee. As he has named me in this connection, may I explain that the committee, of which the Archbishop of Birmingham is chairman, decided at its first meeting that the art of liturgical translation was sufficiently advanced in this country to render it unnecessary, as well as time-wasting, for us to make a completely fresh start; it would be better to take one or more existing texts as the basis and perfect them by a process of thorough revision.
For this purpose the committee chose two well-known missals: for the introits and other charts, The Layman's Missal, and for the prayers The Latin English Missal edited by Canon J. B, O'Connell and myself. Every member of the committee was to examine these versions critically and to send in his proposals for improvement.
Fr. Winstone and I were asked to collate the results and to prepare a draft text 'n the Tight of the suggestions received from our colleagues, The draft was then to be submitted to them for further criticism, and again amended, when they had said their say, by a sub-committee consistiog of the Bishop of Leeds, Fr. Winstone and myself,
After this twofold screening by the committee and final revision by the sub-committee, the resulting text would have to be scrutinized by this episcopate of England and Wales and by the Consilium in Rome.
The decision to adopt this procedure was unanimous. The committee went to work with a will and sent in voluminous memoranda, Anyone who takes the trouble to compare the basic texts with the new rendering which has emerged from all this labour will see at once how drastic the revision has been.
What he will not see, because it cannot appear on the surface, is how often a suggestion put forward by our respected colleague A is contradicted by one received from the equally respected B.
When this happens, we have to decide which to follow, hoping that if our choice falls provisionally on B, A will not take offence and write to the papers complaining that his views have been ignored. They have not been ignored; on the contrary, they have been most carefully pond ere d. Fortunately most of our colleagues take all this in good part.
Mr. Milner is aggrieved because communications are not acknowledged. At an early stage Fr. Winstone and I asked to be excused from acknowledging receipt of every letter, for the task is heavy enough without that, and neither of us enjoys any secretarial assistance.
Mr. Milner also complains that decisions are not taken by vote of the majority. Does he seriously imagine that that is how good translations are made? He is a distinguished musical composer: what would he say if anyone thought a symphony could be composed by a dozen people sitting round a table and deciding by majority vote what notes should go into each bar?
In preparing the new text of the Order of Mass the pro cedure had to be modified because two other countries were involved, but the English committee had full liberty to express its views. There are one or two things in the new text which would read differently had it depended on me, but all minor and personal reservations are, or should be, swallowed up in gratitude to the episcopates of England, Scotland. Wales, and Ireland for combining to give us a text which on any showing is a vast improvement on the inaccusate and uninspired version we in England have had to endure for the last two years.
(Professor) H. P. R. Finberg Royal Societies Club,