Jean Jacques Olier, a defender
of Catholic Orthodoxy against
So what is the problem with the new translation of the “pro multis” (for many/for all) in the words of consecration?” Benedict XVI has been very insistent that not only in the English language translations but in all the various language groups the words “pro multis” be translated literally so that the consecratory words over the chalice should say: “…the blood of the new and eternal covenant which is shed for you and for many” rather than “…for you and for all” as had been the custom with most vernacular translations since Vatican II. (The equivalent translation had been in the Italian, Spanish, and German Missals among other vernacular translations.) This translation was a sticking point for many who reject the Liturgy of Paul VI even though the official text, i.e. the Latin text, of the Missal says: “pro multis” (for many) rather than “for all.”
It does make sense that the text should be translated literally if it is to be faithful to the scriptural words beneath and to the faith of the Church—but in this case the contrary is true. While the Latin says “pro multis” (for many), the Latin itself is a translation from the Greek. (The New Testament from which the words of consecration are drawn is written originally in Greek.) And the Greek says “οί πολλοί” which means “the many.” You see the problem is that Latin has no definite article—“the”—and so what is an inclusive idea in the Greek becomes an exclusive idea in the Latin. When we say that Christ’s blood is shed for many it means that Christ died for many, not for all. But the Greek New Testament means that his blood is shed for the many—the multitudes, the crowds, everybody. (The French, by the way, got around this and translated it quite well: pour la multitude—for the multitude.)
What further complicates the issue is that in the condemnation of Jansenism with the bull Cum Occasione by Innnocent X in 1653, one of the propositions condemned was the Jansenist claim that it was heretical to say that Christ died for all. To the contrary—the Catholic Church teaches that Christ died for all. Jansenism, like its Protestant cousin, Calvinism, held that God had predestined some to salvation and others to damnation and that Christ’s saving death applies only to those who are predestined to salvation. Unfortunately, Pope Benedict’s insistence on the faulty translation of pro multis as “for many” undercuts the Catholic orthodoxy that makes it clear that the blood of Christ was shed for all. The Pope, of course, believes in the teaching that Christ died for all, but his lack of pastoral experience leaves him blind to how this faulty translation will be used by those in the Church—and there are many among the neo-traditionalists—who are infected with Jansenism
I was recently talking with a young man who is now a student in a reputable Catholic seminary but whose family had long belonged to the sedevacantist group at Mount Saint Michael’s near Spokane Washington. (The Sedevacantists reject the Second Vatican Council and believe that the last “true” Pope was Pius XII, the Vatican II era popes being ineligible for the Petrine Office because they have embraced the “heresies” of the Council.) This gentleman explained to me the phenomenon of Jansenism sheltering among neo-traditionalists both within and separated from the Church. He said what drove him back into full communion with the Church after having been in sedevacantism for over twenty years was that so many of the people he knew in the movement “are just plain nasty.” Mean-spiritedness is a characteristic of Jansenism as Jansenists tend to be very definite in the judgments about other people’s spiritual state. This is what Jean Jacques Olier, the founder of the Sulpicians, said of the Jansenists: “They devour the heart of charity by which the Church lives.” One can see this in many of the neo-traditionalist and Catholic neo-con websites from Michael Voris and his Church Militant TV to Mary Ann Kreitzer of Les Femmes to tantamergo—a blog for Dallas area Catholics and other sites like this that are very quick to tell you who are and who are not “good Catholics” without having any authority to make such evaluations. Jansenism is alive and well today in certain circles and one of the unintended consequences of this translation is that the Liturgy will nourish it as it opens to the door to the idea that there are those whom God loves and those whom God hates. And what heresy is greater than the idea that God hates anyone, even the most vile sinner?