Saturday, June 24, 2006

Logic 101 & Liturgy 2006

This post is really an afterthought. While reading Gerald's expose on the amendments made to the MR by the USCCB, I decided that I wanted to address a few issues from the perspective of a passionate English student. One of these issues involves the "Domine, non sum dignus..." (O Lord, I am not worthy). However, I then found Father Z.'s post on that same phrase, answering an objection from a laywoman in Florida, and I realized that I might use a separate post to anticipate objections that will be raised in my treatment above. (NB: I see that, since then, Father has treated the issue in more detail. Maybe my own treatment here will be redundant, as I have not read his subsequent posts.)

Having said all that, let me try to set this up. In my later post, I am going to hypothetically consider removing the phrase "under my roof" from the proposed translation, and show, from an English student's perspective, why any way of translating the Latin with this removed would be unworkable, impractical, and substantively changed in meaning when rendered in English. This hypothetical treatment is an "extra step," beyond the argument that Father Z. makes, which is really the only argument necessary. In other words, my hypothetical treatment is illustrative of a different point, trying to prove a separate matter of principal. It should be inferred that I think there is any sort of flaw to the way that Father Z. treats the issue. But, that having been said, I'd like to anticipate an objection that some might raise to Father Z.'s argument. I suspect that a (false) accusation of hypocrisy might be made. And it is this accusation that I will take up now.

Let's move into the substance of the post, now.

The woman in Florida objects that she doesn't know what "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" means. Father Z. answers her rather well. In doing so, he explains the meaning of the phrase by appealing to the Scriptural source from which it comes. (I should note that I have made no attempt to analyze any Greek sources from which the English/Latin translations take this phrase - I hope, anyway, to show that such analysis would be superfluous to necessity, anyway.)

Now, certain people familiar with the backstory of the ICEL translation and its debate in the BCL might raise an objection to this appeal which Father Z. makes. In order to understand their objection, a brief review of the backstory is in order. It involves a similar argument being used by Bishop Trautman, the chair of the BCL. If you all remember, Bishop Trautman took issue with the phrase "precious chalice" in the Latin text of the Missale Romanum. His argument was that this was an imposition upon the Scriptural source. In three Gospels, we have Jesus taking a "cup" - not a precious chalice. So, why render the phrase praeclarum calicem in the Missal?

Now, on the surface, these appeals to Scripture might seem the same thing to some people. Why, then, does the translation going to Rome reject the Scriptural "cup" but maintain the "under my roof"? How can Father Z. and others use the same argument which they rejected from Bishop Trautman months ago? Isn't this cafeteria translationism?

Well, the answer is no. And the reason is that it's not the same argument. Let's analyze the two to show why.

The syllogism which our objectors might set up in order to illustrate their accusation for hypocrisy would look something like this:

1) Bishop Trautman's appeal to Scripture has been taken by conservatives to be an invalid in relation to wording used in the Roman Missal.
2) Father Z. argument is an appeal to Scripture.
3) Hence, Father Z.'s argument is, by conservative assessment, an invalid argument in relation to the wording used in the Roman Missal.

The so-called "middle term" in this argument is the vaguely rendered "appeal to Scripture." But the apparent similarity of the two arguments is misleading, and I will show why the above syllogism, valid though it may be, rests upon inferences that have been made imprecisely.

"Appealing to scripture" is not, in all cases, the same thing. The appeal takes on a specific nature. In Bishop Trautman's case, the appeal is argumentative. In Father Z's, it is explanatory. Bishop Trautman wants to make a case for the 1970 ICEL "correcting" the words of the Roman Missal. He challenges, in his argument, the authority of the Missal's authors to quote and paraphrase Scripture at their own discretion, placing that authority in the hands of the translating body of ICEL. Father Z., on the other hand, upholds Rome's authority to quote and paraphrase Scripture as She sees fit, and simply tries to show the fittingness of one place of quotation.

It matters very much here that Bishop Trautman is arguing against the wording of the Missal and Father Z. is arguing for the wording. Had the word in the Missal been "cup," then Bishop Trautman could easily appeal to Scripture to argue why ICEL may not render the phrase "precious chalice." Why the difference? Because, in the case that the Missal had said "cup," then that would be because the Missal had been intended to say "cup." And, likely, this intention would have been based upon Scripture having first said "cup." But since the Missal did not say "cup," we can infer that the authors did not intend to duplicate the Biblical language. And Rome's intention is only authority to which we can appeal for what goes into the Missal.

So the more precise way of rendering, in a phrase, Father Z's argument, is NOT to say that it is an "appeal to Scripture." But rather, his argument is based upon an appeal to an intentional quotation, by Rome, from the Scriptures.
To boil it down to the basics: the difference in the appeal relates to what the Roman Missal is, and what is the intention of the Missal "authors" in a certain passage. Given this more precise formula of the phrase, the middle term of our syllogism above ceases to exist - there is nothing to relate the major premise to the minor.

To use a little less "logic," and a little more common sense, just listen to it in regular, plain wording:

Father Z. says: "In this place, Rome intends to quote Scripture; and look was Scripture says."

Bishop Trautman said: "In this place, Rome DOES NOT intend to quote Scripture; and look what Scripture says."

Father Z's reference is appropriate and relevant - Bishop Trautman's is not.

And therein lies the difference.

Now, having covered these bases, I'm going to put on my English-teacher-wannabe hat, and approach some issues from a bit of a different perspective.



Post a Comment

<< Home