ROME, December 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A number of theologians and biblical experts have spoken against Pope Francis’s wish to change the Italian translation of the Our Father.
One of these theologians, Monsignor Nicola Bux, has said the Italian bishops’ recent decision to replace the traditional translation of the petition “and lead us not into temptation” with a new version is tantamount to surrendering to the “feel-good conception of God” that is so “widespread among Catholics today.”
The “eagerness for change,” the former consultor to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope Benedict XVI has said, is an expression of the “paradigm shift” or “cultural revolution” currently being promoted in the Church.
Bux’s comments come one year after Pope Francis advocated a change in the Lord’s prayer on Italian TV, saying the traditional translation of its sixth petition is “not good.”
Pope says it’s “not good”
The Italian translation of the Our Father’s sixth petition — “e non ci indurre in tentazione” — that is sung during the Mass, is patterned on the Latin “et ne nos inducas in tentationem” almost to the letter, as is the English rendering, “and lead us not into temptation.”
In the last official translation of the Bible into Italian, approved by the Holy See in 2008, we read “and do not abandon us to temptation.” But there’s another story behind the recent change to the Italian version of the Our Father for use in the Mass.
On Dec. 6, 2017, Pope Francis appeared with Fr. Marco Pozza on TV2000’s weekly program “Our Father” to talk about its sixth petition: “and lead us not into temptation.”
During the exchange on the official television network of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, the Pope said the translation “and lead us not into temptation” [in Italian: “non ci indurre in tentazione”] is “not good” and should be changed.
Pope Francis said the reason he doesn’t like the traditional translation is because “it’s not [God] who throws me into temptation, in order to then see how I’ve fallen. No, a father doesn’t do this … The one who leads us into temptation is Satan. That’s Satan’s task,” he said.
The Pope explained that he prefers the new translation in use since last year in France and in other French-speaking countries: “et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation.” This text replaced the previous one, “et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation” and is similar to the new translation in use in many Spanish-speaking countries, including Argentina: “y no nos dejes caer en la tentación.”
He told Fr. Pozza: “The prayer that we say is: ‘When Satan leads me into temptation, you please give me a hand.’”
“Rome has spoken”
The story developed in November 2018, when the Italian Bishops’ Conference met in an extraordinary assembly precisely to discuss whether or not to replace, in the Italian Missal used in the Mass, the traditional translation “and lead us not into temptation” [“e non ci indurre in tentazione”], with the new version that had been used in the Italian translation of the Bible since 2008: “and do not abandon us in temptation” [“e non abbandonarci nella tentazione”].
Toward the end of the November 12-24 assembly, veteran Italian Vaticanist Sandro Magister reported that the Italian bishops had yielded to Pope Francis’s wish and voted to change the Italian version of the petition from “and lead us not into temptation” [“e non ci indurre in tentazione”] to “and do not abandon us to temptation” [“e non abbandonarci alla tentazione”].
Rome had spoken and the discussion was over, Magister said. But he also noted that the “old” version of the sixth petition of the Lord’s Prayer had not even been put to a vote, making it impossible to defend it.
In the article, Magister also questioned the change, writing: “Logically, if God cannot ‘lead’ us into temptation, we don’t see why he is allowed to ‘abandon’ us to it. For two millennia the Church has never dreamed of changing that difficult word of the Gospel, but rather of interpreting and explaining it, in its authentic meaning.”
Then, on Dec. 6, 2018 — exactly one year after Pope Francis had appeared on TV2000 advocating a change to the Italian translation — Magister published a follow-up piece entitled Francis, Absolute Monarch. Behind the scenes of the new Italian ‘Our Father’ detailing what had really happened in the closed-door meeting.
In the article, Magister said that when it came time for the vote, the Italian bishops understood that Pope Francis was “imposing” the replacement of the traditional version on the Italian Bishops’ Conference. He likened the move to the Vatican ordering U.S. bishops to postpone a vote on measures to prevent sexual abuse coverup at their November assembly in Baltimore.
According to Magister, sources inside the hall told him how the change came about behind closed doors. He writes:
When the question was put to discussion in the hall, on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 14, a few bishops spoke out in defense of the traditional version, asking that it be kept alive and if anything explained better to the faithful, instead of being changed.
In effect, the words “e non ci indurre in tentazione” — on par with the English version used in the United States: “and lead us not into temptation” — are an exact reproduction of the Latin translation still in effect in liturgical chant: “et ne nos inducas in tentationem,” which in turn is strictly faithful to the original Greek: “kai me eisenénkes hemás eis peirasmón.”
But from the moderator’s bench these voices were quickly hushed. The bishops were told that the “non ci indurre” would have to be replaced no matter what, and that the only thing they were allowed to discuss and vote on was the selection of the new translation.
This, because “it had been so decided.” And the thoughts of everyone in the hall went to Pope Francis.
Magister says that after some “commotion” in the hall, and a brief back and forth between the chairmanship of the bishops’ conference — who was proposing “and do not abandon us in temptation” — and Archbishop Bruno Forte — who was proposing the preferred translation of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini “and keep us from falling into temptation” — the matter was put to a vote.
The result was a perfect split, with 94 bishops voting for the chairmanship’s proposal and 94 voting for Forte’s. According to conference rules, an amendment must have a majority to pass. In the end, he said, the version used in the 2008 Italian translation of the Bible — “and do not abandon us in temptation” – passed by one vote.
A noted theologian critiques the change
Following news, several Italian theologians criticized the change, including Monsignor Nicola Bux, a liturgist and former consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Benedict XVI. Monsignor Bux currently serves as a theologian consultor to the Congregations for the Causes of Saints, and to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
In a Dec. 4 interview with Aldo Maria Valli, Bux said the current discussion about changing the Our Father in the Mass is leading many people to “wonder whether the Church, for two thousand years, was not mistaken in ‘obeying the Savior’s command,’ and whether it ‘conformed to his divine teaching.’”
“If the petition in question was considered incomprehensible, was it not enough to explain it in a catechesis?” he asked.
Msgr. Bux said he believes the “most convincing” translation is the “traditional” one, because “St. Jerome meant to translate with the Latin verb inducere (which means to introduce, concisely induce) the possibility that the Lord submits us to temptatio, to the test, to prove if we are faithful.” Msgr. Bux said:
It is well known that a number of times Sacred Scripture explains that God introduces or tests those whom He loves; as in the case of Jonah. Jesus also spoke of the “sign of Jonah,” that is, the test through which he himself and all those who wanted to follow him would pass: the passion and death, the “first moment” of the Paschal Mystery. And the “second moment,” the resurrection, depends on the first.
In Gethsemane Jesus asked the Father to take from him “the chalice”: the terrible trial of the Cross. Therefore, in order to prove that we are faithful to His Covenant, we cannot ask God “not to abandon us to temptation,” but not to lead us into trial and to free us from evil. Instead, the new translation appears to be in contrast with the behavior of the Lord, as revealed to us in the Old and especially in the New Testament.
Msgr. Bux also expressed concern that the change to the sixth petition might be “the premise” of other changes, for example, to the “consecration formula” in the Eucharistic Prayer.
The Italian theologian said that, with the change, the Italian bishops have given in to the “feel-good conception of God” that is “widespread among Catholics today.” The “eagerness for change,” he said, is an expression of the “paradigm shift” or “cultural revolution” being promoted in the Church today.
The change “leans towards those have come up with an idea that the God revealed by Jesus Christ is not a judge and remunerator for the good and evil works done by man.”
“The Church is not looked upon as the Bride of Christ, to be preserved and passed on to the new generations, but as something to be manipulated as we please,” Bux said.
“Certainly,” he added, “this is not the conception of the Apostolic and Patristic Tradition transmitted by the Catholic Church,” adding that the new translation “deepens the division in the Church.”
Pope Benedict explains “and lead us not into temptation”
In 2007, Benedict XVI dedicated chapter 5 of Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 1, to the Lord’s Prayer. There he sought to explain the true meaning of its sixth petition, but he never suggested that the words be changed.
Benedict began by acknowledging that many people may find the petition “shocking.” But he said we are helped to understand its meaning by remembering that “God tempts no one” (Jas 1:13), and that the sacred scripture does reveal that “part of Jesus’ messianic task is to withstand the great temptations that have led man away from God and continue to do so” (Mt 4:1).
Benedict then looks to the biblical figure of Job who “in many ways prefigures the mystery of the Lord” and who helps us to understand the meaning of the sixth petition.
“God gives Satan the freedom to test Job, though within precisely defined boundaries: God does not abandon man, but he does allow him to be tried,” writes Benedict.
The Book of Job, he continued, can also help us to understand the difference between trial and temptation. Benedict writes:
In order to mature, in order to make real progress on the path leading from a superficial piety into profound oneness with God’s will, man need to be tried. […] man needs purifications and transformations; they are dangerous for him, because they present an opportunity for him to fall, and yet they are indispensable as paths on which he comes to himself and to God.
When we pray [the sixth petition of the Our Father], we are saying to God: “I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room to maneuver, as you did with Job, then please remember that my strength goes only so far. Don’t overestimate my capacity. Don’t set too wide the boundaries within which I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me.”
Noting that Church Fathers such as St. Cyprian understood the sixth petition in this way, he said there are two reasons why God grants the Evil One a limited power over us.
Temptation, he said, “can be as a penance for us, in order to dampen our pride.” But God also allows it to be laid upon us “for his glory,” as he did with the great saints like St. Anthony of the Desert and St. Therese or Lisieux, who through their sufferings borne out of love for God and souls, enjoyed a “very special communion with Jesus Christ.”
Pope Benedict XVI concluded:
When we pray the sixth petition of the Our Father, we must therefore, on the one hand, be ready to take upon ourselves the burden of trials that is meted out to us. On the other hand, the object of the petition is to ask God not to mete out more than we can bear, not to let us slip from his hands.
“We make this prayer,” he said, “in the trustful certainty that Saint Paul has articulated for us: ‘God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it’ (1 Cor 10:13).”
On Dec. 5, 2018, Pope Francis began a new series of general audiences dedicated to the ‘Our Father.’ It will be interesting to see how he comments on the petition “and lead us not into temptation.”