Priest resigns over new Missal translation


After 47 years as a priest, and at least two decades of straying from the Roman Catholic Missal by ad libbing parts of the Mass, the Rev. Bill Rowe of St. Mary Church has resigned under pressure from the bishop.

Why? Because he doesn’t agree that a priest should be restricted to the exact words of the Missal, including new changes in the Mass that were intended to more closely interpret earlier Latin versions.

The changes were ordered by the Vatican and took effect in late November.

Rowe, 72, said he was called to a meeting in October at the Belleville home of Bishop Edward Braxton. Rowe said that Braxton told him he could not change even small parts of what a Catholic priest is supposed to say during the portions of the Mass that are controlled by the Missal.

Rowe said Braxton told him to “think about it” for three days and then write him a letter. Rowe said he sent the letter on Oct. 12 stating he could not accept what Braxton wanted but did not want to resign or retire. He said he did not receive a response from Braxton until a few days ago, accepting his resignation.

Rowe will leave his parish in June after a successor is installed.

The Rev. John Myler, diocese spokesman, said: “I have no comment at this time. If that changes, I will contact you.”

Frank Flinn, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis, said it is the first removal of a priest that he knows about in connection with a failure to follow the new version of the Roman Missal.

“I predicted that it would drive priests out and I was laughed at, at the time,” Flinn said, “but here it is, the truth.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more:

Last Sunday, instead of saying “Lord our God that we may honor you with all our mind and love everyone in truth of heart,” during the opening prayer, he altered the phrasing to better reflect the day’s Gospel message, in which Jesus heals a man with a troubled spirit.

“We thank you, God, for giving us Jesus who helped us to be healed in mind and heart and proclaim his love to others,” the 72-year-old priest prayed instead.

Three days later, Rowe received a letter from Bishop Edward Braxton accepting his resignation.

“The problem is that when I pray at Mass, I tend to change the words that are written in the book to match what I was talking about, or what a song is about,” Rowe said in an interview.

The book in question is the Roman Missal, a book of prayers, chants and responses used during the Mass. Rowe has been saying some of those prayers in his own words for years.

But in December the Vatican-mandated adoption of a new English-language translation of the Missal may have given bishops an opportunity to rein in freewheeling priests who have been praying in their own words for decades.

“Since December when the new translation came out, no one has said what would happen to you if you changed stuff,” said the Rev. John Foley, director of the Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University. “But I find it hard to believe a priest in Illinois would be forced to resign because he wasn’t using the exact words from the translation. It’s not a strong-enough offense for that.”

And you can watch a short interview with him on the subject right here.


  1. Dude sounds like a serious egomaniac.

    When I, as a Catholic, go to Mass, it is my right to have the liturgy of the Catholic Church, not what one particular priest in one particular space in time thinks is “better.” His opinion is irrelevant. I don’t care about it. The liturgy of the entire Body of Christ, as it has been established by the Church? Yes. One guy’s opinions? Not so much.

  2. Sounds like it was for the best. May he still have a positive contribution to make in his retirement years.

  3. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    The Church is meant to last for thousands of years until Christ’s
    Second Coming. If every priest over the centuries did whatever liturgy he wished to, imagine how little of our original beliefs and teachings would be left. It would be worse than the typical “telephone” whisper-in-the-ear game where you start a story on one side of the room. An hour later the story finishes going around the room and the opposite story of what was told at the outset arrives at the other side of the room. Besides priests demanding to do their own thing–like 60′s radicals– is old-fashioned and tiring.
    My experience as a deacon has been that priests who are do-your-own-thing celebrants are the ones who most frequently trample all over the deacon’s officially designated roll in the Mass to make sure nothing stands between him and his adoring congregation.

  4. That link from Rocco was fascinating – back in the earlier days of his blog when he was far more mouthy and out there than he is now.

    Do you know that in the *very* early days he even accepted comments?

  5. wow- PRIDE is a deadly sin- HE knows better…the people should hear what HE thinks during the set prayers- the homily is the place to share opinions, facts, reflections etc on the Gospel (and coffee and donuts)

    Let’s pray for this priest’s soul because his pride is tearing him from his ETERNAL vocation

  6. Amen.

  7. Mary Russell says:

    Non serviam.

  8. This is in my diocese. I don’t know this priest or parish. There was a pastoral letter in 2010 about the new translations which also gave priests a heads-up that ad libbing shall end with the new translations. Pretty good notice, I’d say. The parish seems to be quite taken in with the priest’s cult of personality. They are planning petitions and all that. But the priest resigned, he was not fired. The bishop took a few months to consider the resignation. This is what the priest asked for. Sadly, there is much poor catechesis in the diocese leading many folks not to understand and seeing the bishop as a dictatorial power-hungry “meanie” obsessed with unimportant matters.

  9. These people obviously have a different definition for the word “resigned” than the one I am familiar with. Sounds to me like he was sacked. That aside though I have no issue with how the bishop handled this. The priest was told what the rules were and that he was expected to abide by them. Once it was clear that he was not going to, the bishop did his job and gave him the clerical equivalent to a pink slip.

    Let us hope that this is indicative of a broad trend.

  10. Most of the dissenting priests tha can’t stomach the new translation are about that age, a fading generation stuck in thr 60′s.

  11. {“We thank you, God, for giving us Jesus who helped us to be healed in mind and heart and proclaim his love to others,” the 72-year-old priest prayed instead.}

    And that’s why ad libbing is so very dangerous. God didn’t give us Jesus.

    Jesus IS God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

    Then of course there is Jesus telling us that He and the Father are one.

    Sloppy language falls hard on uneducated ears. It’s just as well he’s leaving.

  12. vox borealis says:

    Frank Flinn, an adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis, said it is the first removal of a priest that he knows about in connection with a failure to follow the new version of the Roman Missal.

    What a disingenuous statement. He was not removed for not following the new version (translation?) of the missal…as the article states, he has been adlibbing for many years before the new translation. He was, I mean he RESIGNED…because he refused to say the mass according to the missal, new translation or otherwise.

    Of course, watch how this story will be spun.

  13. Maybe this example may help in the understanding of what the Liturgy is. My former pastor disbanded the liturgy committee in our parsih (in reality it was just a way to keep a schedule of liturgical events) for fear of being told what to do. He was not a liturgist and had no intention of being one. He did as he felt best. Nothing was consistent. The problem with this approach is some parishonners think that different from the prescribed is always better. Even without understanding the norm. Thisresgignation is a first step. Now lets get the musicians who have no clue as to what singing the mass on board with this one.

  14. Curious to know – is adlibbing practiced among all other foreign languages or is it just the English language?

  15. From further into the story:
    “Rowe said Belleville’s previous bishop, Wilton Gregory, had discussed his off-the-cuff prayer habit with him, referring to the practice as ‘pushing the envelope.’ He said five years ago, Braxton also discussed the matter with him, and asked him to read directly from the Missal.
    “‘I told him I couldn’t do that,’ Rowe said. ‘That’s how I pray.’”
    The problem with this (and one would expect Fr Rowe to be aware of this very important liturgical theology, because he’s of the age to have been formed by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, as I was) is that the priest when presiding at Eucharist is not praying as “I,” but as the voice of the “we” who are the assembly, the universal Church in microcosm. Making it up as we go along is not how we pray.
    I don’t think we need deify the texts, and I don’t have a problem with a presider smoothing out the Latinate syntax by shifting the sequence of adjectives and nouns in the more tongue-twisty collects. But I no longer see free adaptation as a sign of the Spirit’s energy, as we did in the 60s; in our 60s, it looks a lot more like personal pride and condescension (“you people are too dumb to understand this unless I chew it for you first”). It’s especially noticeable now, as everyone tries to follow along with the new texts. We have a supply priest in our parish who has always done this, and it’s so unfair to the congregation when he ad libs a prayer to which we are called to respond. You get silence, filled with the sounds of flipping pages and flapping pew cards.

  16. Frank Sinatra wannabes, “I DID IT MY WAY.”

  17. Remember the old Sinatra song, “I Did It My Way”? Apoparently it was this guy’s theme song. Too bad doing it his way was more important to him than exercising his priestly ministry.
    Unrelated to this incident, but kind of a contrast; here is an inspiring story about a priest who came to his vocation late in life:

  18. Having been in masses in Spanish in Mexico and in the US, it is more common in the English masses, although am sure there are few “creative” priests thre too.

  19. Sorry about the redundancy; I didn’t see Amy’s comment before I posted.

  20. Wow. That piece by Rocco was more opinionated than any I’ve read in nearly eight years. Did he have Fr. Z. or the guy from Shouts in the Piazza fill in?

    Bp. Braxton got a reputation for being “high and mighty” at his last post in Lake Charles, LA, but nothing to this level. And remember that the man he replaced was another authoritative African-American, Wilton Gregory. But to quote Jose Ferrer’s in The Caine Mutiny, “You don’t follow a man because of how he parts his hair, but because he’s got the job, or you’re no good.”

  21. Toxic comment thread about this on Fr. Ruff’s blog in 5…4…3…

  22. A few things …

    Improvising presidential prayers at one time was an honored practice for bishops. That time is long past, given the quantity of clergy today, the mixed charisms they bring to ordained office, not to mention the widespread print versions of the Missal.

    I think the new Missal and its translation have any number of errors, mistakes, small theological problems, and that doesn’t even address the overarching ideological taint of Liturgiam Authenticam. That said, I implement and support implementation not because of any particular quality, but because of the importance of unity. Or at worst, allowing this translation to sink on its own merits.

    That said, there’s something to be said for not being sore winners on this one, people. Y’all are sort of like the coworkers who have finally seen corporate fire your supervisor. It’s should be enough to watch him pack up his desk and walk out the door. No need to throw eggs and rotten produce at him on his way to the company parking lot.

    Yes, I think there’s a serious problem with adlibbing at the liturgy. But it’s not unlike Mr Voris, and tons of Catholics and their do-it-yourself catechism with almost every wild pronouncement in the blogosphere. There’s something to be said for keeping it classy. It’s not in the book, mind you. Just plain good manners.

  23. David J White says:

    Most of the dissenting priests tha can’t stomach the new translation are about that age, a fading generation stuck in the 60′s.

    As Fr. Z says, the “biological solution” will soon take care of much of this problem.

    I don’t have a problem with a presider smoothing out the Latinate syntax by shifting the sequence of adjectives and nouns in the more tongue-twisty collects

    I certainly have a problem with it. Either you’re reading what the Missal says, or you’re not. It’s a short step from “smoothing out the syntax” to ad libbing your own text. Besides, given that word order in English is stricter than word order in Latin (where, contrary to the impression of some of my Latin students, word order is not completely random), “shifting the sequence” can alter the intended meaning, or at least the intended emphasis.

    I realize the that traditional Latin Mass is not everyone’s cup of tea, and I respect that. But one of the things I really like about it is that it is consistent. The celebrant (not “presider” — ugh!) is performing a ritual function, not playing emcee in a nightclub; and the liturgy works in many ways to keep his individuality and personality under wraps so as to focus the congregation’s attention on the actions being performed, not on the personality of the priest performing them.

  24. It’s unfortunate to lose a priest, particularly one who seems to be liked and may well be a good man. But, really, THIS is the hill he chooses to die upon? He’s willing to dispose of his ministry and his obligations because he wants to be able to make up the mass as he goes along? That points to only really two possible interpretations: 1) a deep strain of arrogance and narcissism that elevates his own “way to pray” above the needs of his flock, or 2) a person who was burned out and looking for an excuse to exit. I can’t for the life of me imagine a third option.

    We have an older priest who performs what I call “a Jazz improvisation on themes of the Mass,” and barely says a word from the missal without adding some insipid (and sometimes theologically incorrect) change or flourish. It’s distracting, it’s spiritual value is nugatory, and it drives me straight up the wall. There’s nothing more than vanity in this idea that “I can do it better.” Padre, you have a homily for that. You have your hours for that. You have your private prayers for that. The mass is the public text of a universal church, and is the property of no one person.

  25. I get it as to why the bishop did what he did, but I also do feel badly for this priest who has provided a great deal of his life to serving God’s people. Some of these comments appear very uncharitable toward this man making him to appear as some sort of heretic or egomaniac. Yes, I do believe the bishop does need to enforce the new missal. If he does not, it could lead to and has in the past led to abuses. It’s just too bad that the bishop could not convince him to express himself via the homily or in another part of the Mass. I hope he is happy in his retirement and instead of criticizing him, we should offer prayers of Thanksgiving for his priesthood.

  26. He does have a point about the some prayers in the new English language Missal.

    Apparently, the reason for changing the prayers was that after Vatican II, rushed Latin translations were put out into churches. However, it is hard to believe that after 1960 years of study, that the Vatican experts would do such a bad job translating. The new missal is a mish-mosh of voted on changes to the prayer structure — a Missal based on committee decisions versus strict translation.

    “The new Missal, with its myriad tweeks, does not attempt to render the Latin Rite Mass in Standard English. In most cases, it transliterates the Latin; in some instances, however, it adds words and meanings not found in the original Latin text. “

    Here is an example of dispute about integrity of the new Missal:

    “The Rev. Anthony Ruff, a Benedictine monk and theology professor at St. John’s University in Minnesota, said he was removed last year as head of the music panel of the international translating commission because of criticisms he posted on his blog. In an open letter to U.S. bishops published in the Jesuit magazine America, Ruff cancelled his plans to speak on the text to diocesan priests because, “I cannot promote the new missal translation with integrity.””

    In fact Pope John Paul originally refused to approve the new ‘translations’.

    “Pope John Paul II declined to approve this new translation; he thought that the Bishops’ translating committee had gone too far in trying to make the Mass understandable in vernacular English. He was of the opinion that not all vernacular languages were worthy of use in the Liturgy, and that some should be excluded from use. (Lit. auth. 10) “

  27. Remember at Ordination all those ordained were asked if they promised to obey the bishop and his successor? I do!!!!
    I remember being told as a young recruit when I was in law enforcement that if I did not like something the COP mandated, either become the chief and change it or simply leave. Maybe Fr. Rowe should consider becoming a bishop and change the mandate. O, I forgot. I bet the bishops have superiors!

  28. Amen…ditto. I find this practice annoying. You get what “Father” is thinking rather than what the “Church” is thinking…which is what I am anxious in internalize. Talk about clericalism!!!

  29. vox borealis says:

    And one could never understand why some might be “poor winners,” given the grace with which those were treated for the last 40-odd years who questioned liturgical free-wheeling, those who said simply look at what the VII documents actually said regarding the liturgy.

    The generation before did whatever it could to destroy everything in its wake, and now they cry out for good manners. Of course they are correct: good manners are good. That said, I won’t shed many a tear for that generation now in, apparently, their darkest hour, when they are simply being asked to follow the rules.

  30. vox borealis says:

    He chose this hill to die upon because, I suspect, long ago he stopped believing in any of the rest. When the liturgy becomes your own personal kingdom–when you are the pope of your mini-church based on the cult of your own personality—the stakes for being forced to sat the black and do the red are very high indeed.

    I am impressed he didn’t simply hold out a couple of years for the meagre pension he is surely owed.

  31. vox borealis says:

    Rather we should pray for him, since he obviously has some real issues with vows and obedience.

  32. Elizabeth Scalia says:

    The blessing of the liturgy is that it wipes out self, it takes the individual out of the picture and brings us together with the church entire, and with heaven.

    This fella thinks he is greater than the liturgy. Ah, well. He’s not the first.

  33. Braxton also discussed the matter with him, and asked him to read directly from the Missal.
    “‘I told him I couldn’t do that,’ Rowe said. ‘That’s how I pray.’”
    There is a difference between “couldn’t” and “wouldn’t.” I believe that the priest really expressed the latter.

  34. I feel badly for him too. He is wrong in his desire, but let’s be charitable. He wasn’t preaching (that we can tell from the article) anything against Church doctrine, such as gay marriage or pro abortion. The impression I get is that he’s a good man but a bit stubborn. Of course i could be wrong, but until proven so I will assume the best.

  35. I’m not a big fan of the translation either. I’ll grant that it is more accurate, and therefore justified, but the latinate words don’t make the English flow naturally. Perhaps that’s my opinion, but I consider myself to have a good ear for our language.

  36. Deacon Norb says:

    I find it fascinating that he is in his early 70′s. Depending upon their own protocols, most bishops accept the retirement of their priests from “active status” to “senior status” — or whatever that local diocese calls it — sometime after those respective priests reach 70.

    I have not read the details of this case thoroughly enough, but I genuinely suspect that the bishop really is processing this through as what secular folk might call an “early retirement.”

    A lot of that happened in our church from 1965-1970 — right after Vatican II. If I remember correctly, “The Great Exodus” peaked in 1968. If individual priests or members of a religious community (sisters or brothers) could not deal with the updates and changes that Vatican II brought forward, they were allowed a peaceful exit.

  37. The priest receives a military retirement, so he knows about disipline. The priest is beyond retirement age – he will continue to contribute and will not have to pay attention to a bishop who appears to have a few issues.

  38. When a priest pronounces is slowly and deliberately, it is beautiful and makes sense to the ear. When they rush, it doesn’t. They’re used to pronouncing short, choppy, simplistic sentences. I find the new translation is like a river that sweeps me up and keeps me going. The language is much more interesting and specific as well.

  39. Ah yes, the generation of poor catechesis rears its head: revenge trumps unity.

    No, I pretty much think I’m still living in a great age for the Church, and many of Fr Rowe’s critics, though they may feel uplifted, and warm-n-fuzzy, really should try eating eggs and tomatoes rather than throwing them. Here’s to lux borealis.

    And by the way, why are you anonymous?

  40. I’m not sure anyone can accurately say what this guy thinks, aside from what he tells us. It’s rather unseemly for people to be guessing about it. I think we get more of a window into what many Catholic conservatives are thinking and feeling by their unthinking and unfeeling comments.

    Better to focus on the values of the liturgy, as Elizabeth commented above in her first paragraph. The second is just bitter politics, and we’re better off with the blessing of the liturgy, as you say, rather than the critique of the individual.

  41. vox borealis says:

    Amen, dico tibi!

  42. I, like many other priests are also struggling with the new wording of the Roman Missal. I find it cold and rather uninspiring to say the least!
    While I do not feel inclined to take liberties with the translation, I can only hope and pray that with time it will ‘grow’ on me! Like so many laity have told me, “We simply don’t talk that way in this country!” And I quite agree! And while the congregational responses seem to be coming along okay, I can sense many folks are rather turn-off by them! And now can you imagine the cost of having to update and reprint all of the ritual books that we use? I bet the publishers are having a ball!

  43. Obviously he forgot the vow of obedience. I hope he listened to his military superiors better than his Bishop. I would say Father has issues to deal with.

  44. jack kielbasa says:

    I trust Fr Rowe was being honest and sincere in his expression and doubt that anything he ‘ad-libbed’ would have been contrary to Catholic teaching….that said HOWEVER – he did take vows of obedience to his Bishop and Fr Rowe should never have allowed this personal expression to have impeded his responsibilites as a Priest – for the sake of the parish which he ministers to – Fr Rowe is out-of-line….PERIOD…..I salute Bishop Braxton for acting cordially and attmepting to apply a shepherd’s reminder to Fr Rowe… the end however, his decision is the right one……I pray for both men and hope Fr Rowe takes more time to reflect over the scandal he offers by disobedience.

  45. “As Fr. Z says, the “biological solution” will soon take care of much of this problem.”
    That’s putting it rather ugly. I know very many good and faithful priests in that age group who have served the Church well and have “borne the heat of the noonday sun.” Age stereotyping isn’t helpful. Every generation has to deal with their own set of problems and makes their share of mistakes. And the “biological solution” is something facing every one of us .

  46. A BIG AMEN!

  47. Deacon Steve says:

    I have been asked many times what I think about the new translation. With friends and others where I know they will listen and understand my reasoning I will give them my personal opinion of the new translation. I also ended up being the only person on the parish staff or in the clergy that was interested in helping the people prepare for the new translation so I gave several classes after reading several sources on the new missal. I was up front at those classes that if they were there to hear my opinion on the new translation they would be sorely disappointed. When preparing them for it, my opinion did not matter. This was the missal we were being given to use, and my bishop said that we would use it. I took a vow of obedience to my bishop at my ordination and I took it seriously. It doesn’t matter if I like it, it is the missal I am being told to use by my bishop. There is room for valid discussion about Rome’s imposition of this on the English speaking world, because historically Rome did not have this much control over the liturgy. Once my bishop accept it, and said that we were to use it, then I have two choices: obey his instruction as head of liturgy in my archdiocese, or ask to be relieved of my duties as a deacon. I for one don’t think this is an issue worth resigning over, so I choose to follow his instructions. It is difficult at times, but it is becoming easier with each mass where I assist. I think this priest is misguided, especially since there was a way for older priests to petition to continue to use the old translation. I won’t completely vilify him either, but i do think that he was wrong to not submit to the request of his bishops.

  48. Father, thanks for the gift of your priesthood. You and all your brothers are in my prayers.

  49. Deo gratias! This is, God willing, a harbinger of things to come.

  50. [Comment deleted for anti-Catholic bigotry. -- Ed.]

  51. Deacon Norb says:


    The committee responsible for putting this together is the ICEL “International Committee on English in the Liturgy.” It consists (I think it still is empowered!) of representatives from all English-Speaking countries. United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, East India, England, Scotland, Wales, South Africa, are the most prominent but there are also some smaller countries in the Caribbean.

    Each one of those cultural contexts could well have totally different vocabulary and syntax that we “Yanks” do. I know, because I have traveled/ been “on-ceremony” in England extensively, that the vocabulary and syntax for the Liturgy there is very different than the US.

    Now, no one has said as much but I tend to believe that no consensus surfaced as to how to properly translate the new Mass text into any English variants using localized and culturally identifiable vocabulary and syntax. So then, the ICEL fell back on a “Latinized” vocabulary and syntax which sounded horrible to everyone but was one that they could at lest all agree to.

    I have not been to any other country except the US since this was put in place. It will be fun to see how the other cultures tackle the same issue — a “Latinized” text.

  52. Phil Steinacker says:

    Hey Todd,

    I often challenge folks of all persuasions about their anonymity. I personally believe it should not EVER be allowed to post anything online in a way that hides your true identity. Do you want to join me in calling outright for that?

    Of course, that would make you the pot calling the kettle black, wouldn’t it? After all, what does calling yourself “Todd” tell us about who YOU are, either?

    So far I’ve been relatively impressed with the fairly low frequency of people here firing cheap shots at one another here. Why don’t you do your bit to help keep it that way?

  53. Double amen.

  54. I don’t think that he was sacked. The article said that the priest offered his resignation. I think that because he was of retirement age he decided to offer his resignation rather than play by the rules. I hope that someone truly educates the parish about why it’s important to read what’s written in the Missal and to not adlib.

  55. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

    God gave us Jesus *and* Jesus is God. The trinity is a mystery.

    May the Lord bless,

  56. Deacon Steve says:

    I have been through the history of the process, but I was a a talk by one of the bishops on the committee a few years ago, and they proposed changes to Rome, and Rome rejected them because only the US Bishops were objecting to some of the language. Plus the change in the translation process from dynamic equivalence to a literal word for word translation was imposed by Rome over the objection of many scholars. There is some of the new translation that I like, and I like being more faithful to the scriptures as Rome wanted, but then there are times when those guidelines are violated. I think that we needed to do the literal translation, then allow some tweeking to fit the syntax of modern English better to make it easier on the priests who have to say the prayers, and for the people who need to hear them. No process is perfect, but there are some things that could have been done better.

  57. Well, Phil, all you have to do is click the link on my name, and you can easily follow the trail.

    I think that a person can have good reasons to comment anonymously. However, I think it presents the person with a certain moral danger, the feeling of freedom to speak without consequences. There are always consequences.

  58. pagansister says:

    Follow the words or out you go.

  59. Bout Time. I wish more priests would follow his example.

  60. Charity, people. Fr. Rowe seems to have been following the spirit of the gospel. He wasn’t following the precise letter of the new translation. He was trying to spread God’s love — and has spent 47 years of his life serving God’s people as a priest. But here, and elsewhere, he is being dismissed as a man full of ego. Love the new translation if you like, people (even though some of it is incredibly clumsy), but consider that Jesus did not die on a cross on behalf of a particular translation. The larger point of Christianity sometimes gets lost in the drive to get priests to conform, conform, conform.

    Thank you, Fr. Rowe, for serving the people of God with all your heart and soul. And thank you to ALL good priests.

  61. naturgesetz says:

    Jesus did not die on the cross on behalf of priests doing their own thing, either.

    But the night before he died he did pray for the unity of his followers.

  62. Father:

    Thank you for your ministry.

    Perhaps you might be interested to know that some of us are greatly inspired by the new translation. We find it richer – far richer.

    Perhaps it might help you to pray these prayers with that mindset?

    With a positive mindset, oriented towards the possibility that there are many who are relieved that the banality of the old translation is in the trashheap? And not assume that your opinion is normative or determinative?

  63. Steve:

    What makes you think that Fr. Rowe’s opinions serve *me?* – the normal, wandering, individual Catholic who might happen on a Mass he celebrates?

    Would I not be better served by the wisdom of the *Church?*

    Why should I – as a Catholic – be subject to the interpretations of this one specific guy of a certain age who has emerged from a certain time period?

    Do I not deserve what the *entire Church* has determined is best?

  64. Well said, Ellen. I live less than two blocks from a Catholic church that I would like to go to, but the current pastor refuses to say the Mass properly. It is almost unrecognizable. People don’t even know when to respond.

    I spoke with the priest once and told him that I felt he “ad libs” his Masses. He was taken aback and offended. He then tried to downplay his negligence by saying that other things were more important to Our Lord than the words he chose when saying Mass.

    He wanted to stress his point and so, asked me what I thought Jesus would think was MOST important? So, I thought about Jesus’ earthly life, which naturally was a life of love, but love lived in response to the obligation He felt to God the Father.

    I told the Priest, “OBEDIENCE.”
    “Obedience to the Will of God is important. After all, if you love God, you want to do His will. You want to OBEY Him. I reminded him that Jesus said many times, “I come to do the will of my Father.” I reminded the priest that obedience to our superiors and to the teachings of the Church is most important.

    He didn’t know what to say in response so he just laughed at me. I smiled back and said, “Well, it’s TRUE.” And… he knew it was.

    Anyway, I wish someone from the diocese would reprimand THIS priest, not only for the sake of the parishioners who suffer under his abuse of the Mass, but also for his OWN sake. He will have to account for his disobedience before God someday.

  65. Melody, those who have served the Church and lived to the truth are by their nature part of the problem for which the biological solution is quoted. It was addressed to the problem of the 60′s crowd who lived to dissent as it seems this priest did. It seems that this is all more about him and less about his being a priest and over the language used in the liturgy. If he was unable to be obedient in this, I suspect it was only the smoke to other firey dissent.

  66. Fiergenholt says:


    IMHO we are asking human language to be perfect when it really cannot be. We are also asking English to have the same nuance and poetry in translation as the original source language of any given text. That, of course, is quite impossible. Ask anyone who is bi-lingual/bi-cultural.

    What our Church is asking — apparently — is that the vocabulary/diction in all liturgical texts in English world-wide used in Roman Catholic Sacred liturgy be the same. That is a decision way “above-my-pay-grade” and yours as well. BUT it also is a disciplinary issue — not one of semantics — which means it also is not a PERMANENT one. The next elected Pope could throw all this out and encourage some creativity in selected portions of the Mass (as it is already accepted for private prayer).

    What a incredibly fascinating Church we live in!

  67. “I, like many other priests are also struggling with the new wording of the Roman Missal. I find it cold and rather uninspiring to say the least!”
    – that is truly unfroitunate. As a lay person who had his formation at the seminary, find the new translation most inspiring.
    Maybe taking a course in Liturgy may help.

  68. Another Ellen chiming in to say, Amen with knobs on. The Mass is not the property of the priest. It belongs to the Church and he needs to get over himself.

  69. Deacon Greg, I enjoy your blog. I will continue to read but will avoid the comments from here on out. I don’t know if these comments are “typical” of how most Catholics think. I find that most of these comments do a disservice to your wonderful commentary. They are judgmental and very legalistic in nature. I often find little charity in the comments as appears in this particular blog about this priest. Peace.

  70. milmarm, if the priest has no superiors, you write to the the Bishop. Be very charitable in your words, express your concerns, and above all, sign your name. Be not afraid!

  71. Quadruple Amen.

  72. I’m sure there are lots of protestant churches that would love to have him.

  73. Flip on your tv to one of these evangelical preachers if you want to see how scary and off point these spontaneous in-the-moment sermons can be. Which is why I’ve converted to Catholicism.

  74. During the “hippy dippy” sixties after Vatican II, it seems that a lot of priests took the idea of the mass in the vernacular to mean that it was ok to personalize. Although I’m all for prayers in just about any form when making individual supplication or in an informal group, the mass is sacred and the words are important. Those words are determined after long and deliberate discussions among our bishops and even the Holy Father, and it is improper and even a little presumptuous to change them. As others have stated, the end result of inserting “personality” into the worship could very well lead to the “cult of personality” seen so much among our protestant brethren. The priest serves in the person of Christ, and putting our own words into the mouth of Christ just isn’t acceptable.

  75. David J White says:

    Like so many laity have told me, “We simply don’t talk that way in this country!”

    So what? Why does liturgical language have to reflect everyday street language? Better that it doesn’t, to reflect the fact that the liturgy is something special and set apart.

  76. Can I just say that a lot of us feel the opposite about the new translation – it’s making mediaeval formulations into the centre of things. Surely this cannot be what Christ intended. Frankly it smacks of mumbo jumbo – where we seem to be saying that God cannot take part / understand us unless we use special ‘magic’ words. Jesus spoke Aramaic; he worshipped in Hebrew; the gospels were written in Greek – why do we have to stick to a ‘precise’ translation of a Latin version????? It makes no sense (as does some of the new English – ‘that we may merit to be’ – where’s that grammar from?? ‘Jesus took the chalice’ – the greek used is the word for ‘cup’ not some precise liturgical vessel).

    So – good on those who push the boundaries and break rules that frankly shouldn’t be there. Or is that only those of us on the other side of the Pond that think this way??

  77. After reading your comments throughout this thread, YES – I think that’s exactly what you deserve. Feel free to stay in the US and worship the liturgy.

    Can you truly describe yourself as normal, wandering, and Catholic?

    It is not Christian of me to say so, but I think you are a bit misguided. I’ll pray for you.

  78. “The priest serves in the person of Christ, and putting our own words into the mouth of Christ just isn’t acceptable.”

    Having survived an entire page of misguided notions of the goal of Catholicism and personal attacks on a humble man of God, I came across this sentence as the very last one. And I am flabbergasted.

    After two minutes of reflection, my jaw is still slack in utter disbelief of what I read on the screen before me presented as honest opinion. It goes leagues deeper than misinterpretation of in persona Christi. I just can’t fathom this. I am so scared for the church. At least no matter what happens to it (ahem, Her?), God will still be there for us, his children.

  79. I feel spoiled, literally spoiled, blessed, when I think back on a special priest who after years of becoming so fine tuned in his own spirutuality had so effortlessly passed it on to us through the mass. Generally I remember those special masses being held on Sunday evenings. He was so talented, and it was obvious God had blessed him and was guiding him. It could not have been anything other. His basic (impromptu) masses were brilliant. I remember sitting there not judging, analyzing, or critiquing him, but really just soaking it in. I heard a couple years ago when he was at the Jesuit retirement center in Los Gatos that he had gone there after he could no longer take care of himself, (alzheimer’s). In the last couple of years of his life the one thing he could remember was one of the eucharistic prayers, as he said mass in a private chapel on a daily basis. I don’t know how acurate it was at that point, but the source I got this story from was credible. Even if you think I’m all wet, he was a good man.
    God Bless

  80. I agree. As I watch even some of the younger priests, let alone the older ones, stumble over the prayers and/or look at the missal instead of what they are praying about, it hurts. I gag every time I hear Jesus took a chalice and not a cup. Personally I wonder if Jesus is having a good laugh or a good cry over us and our response.

  81. “Jesus spoke Aramaic; he worshipped in Hebrew; the gospels were written in Greek – why do we have to stick to a ‘precise’ translation of a Latin version?”
    Excuse me. How does the fact that several languages have been used justify a poor translation of any of them?

    Frankly, I think the talk about how the previous translation was just “dynamic” where the new one is “precise” is an attempt to be charitable and polite. When I first heard that I was afraid I was going to see awkward literal translation. Fortunately, it looks like the translations were just done correctly.

    As for why the English should use the correct translation of the Latin “chalice” instead of the Greek “cup”, I don’t know, but as someone who has done professional translation from other languages, I can think of quite a few reasons. Maybe Greek doesn’t have a word for “chalice”; since the Greek of the New Testament was not generally written by native users of the language, maybe Aramaic had a word for “chalice” but they commonly used the Greek word for “cup.” I don’t know, but without a lot more study, I have no reason to believe Latin scholars over the centuries got it wrong and I have it right. Would you like to refer me to your Aramaic / Greek / Latin source who is so much better?

  82. @Ellen, I totally agree. I’ve been trying to figure out what the problem is that everyone has, because I don’t think it’s awkward or stilted at all. But it does require a somewhat different delivery.

    And of course people have to adjust to new words and new rhythms, and that’s not comfortable. But I think “from the rising of the sun to its setting” is much lovelier than “from east to west.” Sure, it’s not everyday English. But why should it be? It’s still easy to understand.

    Most of the changes I’ve seen are either more poetic, or more directly evocative of Bible stories (“I am not worthy that you come under my roof” calls to mind the Centurion much more than “I am not worthy to receive you”) or more descriptive of the greatness and holiness of God and our sinfulness before him. [I have to say, I'm a little tired of "brokenness." Yeah, I guess so, but it just seems to me like a euphemism for "sinfulness."]

  83. @Barbara, @Deacon Norb

    What a nice way to look at it. I can definitely see that this may be what happened. After so many years of doing something no one seemed to think was wrong, I can see that it might have seemed too hard to change.

    I’ve had trouble seeing it in a more charitable light, but that definitely helps.

  84. The word changes and new rules feel like “control” to me.

    At Vatican II the church realigned its thinking about what constitutes the Church, it was changed from a heirarchical structure to a more circular structure of the “People of God”
    The Liturgy was renewed and became “the work of the people”
    The Laity was called to ministry and the watch word was Ecumenism encouraging respect and dialogue. No one asked us what we think, certainly not a democracy.

    I am a cradle Catholic, and all my education K-college was in Catholic schools. i am a faithful church goer and involved in ministy.

    The word changes are a distraction from what is really important. Must wonder if the intent was to distract us from our wayward clergy.

  85. I just stumbled upon this site and, wow – are you ever an angry and self-righteous bunch.
    You sound like the Pharisees.
    I think focusing a little more on the love and reconciliation themes in the Gospel might be a good idea.

  86. And you sound very judgmental. That’s something Jesus warned pretty strictly not to be.

  87. Bye, Bye, so long, see ya!


  1. [...] He said he did not receive a response from Braxton until a few days ago, accepting his resignation.Via Share this:TwitterFacebookTumblrLinkedInDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

  2. [...] add that a number of these people tend to be sore winners. (Case in point.) I think there are plenty of ways to protest, and even to be effective. I’d like to keep my [...]

  3. [...] teaching. Archbishop Naumann has asked Kathleen Sebelius not to present herself for Communion. Bishop Braxton of Belleville, IL, has accepted the retirement of a priest who refused to say Mass ac…. Pope Benedict has even gone so far as to remove Bishop William Morris from the Diocese of [...]

Leave a Comment