Jesus Makes the National Catholic Reporter Feel Like Losers?

The National Catholic Reporter appears to be claiming that Jesus makes them feel like losers.  This bizarre claim comes from their editorial against the new translation of the Mass texts. Here’s what they said:

Because of our belief in one family in this big tent, we are loath to characterize disagreements as battles. Battles have winners and losers, and no one in the family should be known as a loser. (Historically, losers in church battles have been called schismatics and that is not a nice word to use among family.)

Yet this Sunday, Nov. 27, the first Sunday in Advent, when we are gathered around the eucharistic table — what should be the greatest sign of our unity — many of us will feel depressed. We will feel like losers when we hear not the words that Jesus’ blood “will be shed for you and for all” but that Jesus’ blood “will be shed for you and for many.”

But this change in the English translation isn’t just more faithful to the Latin text. It’s what Jesus said, as reported in Scripture. Here’s how His words are reported in Mark 14:23-25,

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

And from Matthew 26:27-29,

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, from now on I shall not drink this fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it with you new in the kingdom of my Father.”

Now those translations come from the NAB, the Bible translation generally used in Mass. But you can look at the relevant verses in whatever translation you’d like: He clearly said His Blood was to be shed for many.  The Greek word in both passages is polys (πολύς), which meansmany, much, large.

See, the new translation (for which I thank God) wasn’t about hurting the feelings of anyone at the Reporter, but about greater faithfulness to the Latin Rite, and greater faithfulness to the words of Jesus Christ.  As the Reporter admits in their editorial, “The English translation that we have used since 1973 was a rush job done in the first burst of enthusiasm after the Second Vatican Council.”  It was sloppy in many places, and was never intended to last even as long as it did.  Today marks the fulfillment of what was intended from the beginning: the implementation of a faithful translation of the Latin Mass, so that we can pray the same prayers of the universal Church, but each in our own tongue.  It’s the spirit of Pentecost, not Babel.

Are their areas for improvement, even with the new translation?  Probably.  But those who are seeing this as some sort of partisan agenda reveal more about themselves than about the translation.  I think that the Reporter’s editorial betrays this.  They portray their kvetch as against some cabal of bishops seeking to impose their personal whims on the laity.  But that’s just not the case.  This isn’t about the bishops, or even about the Church, but about Christ Himself.  And that’s not a battle the Reporter will win, or even a battle that they should be fighting.

Last but not least, happy Advent!

(h/t to Fr. Andrew for pointing out the editorial)


  1. My son and I (as is our wont) attended a (relatively crowded for the time of day) 7:30 am mass for this the Frist Sunday of Advent. The new translation was in use, and the congregation read their mass cards faithfully with only a few minor stumbles. No children shrieked. No women cried. There was no blood in the streets, and what rioting did occur was easily subdued by a small contingent from the local rest home up the street.

  2. “(Historically, losers in church battles have been called schismatics and that is not a nice word to use among family.) Yet this Sunday… many of us will feel depressed….”

    Wow. The National Catholic Reporter actually printed that? What rank hypocrisy, to complain about its opponents not being “nice” when NCR has been so unfair and nasty toward church leaders it dislikes. But more importantly, I see that this video isn’t exaggerated at all– people really do talk that way:

  3. Joe,

    Thank you for this! I hadn’t known about the NCR article until I saw this post of yours, and I was flabbergasted. The accusatory and antagonistic tone of the editorial was depressing in a way that I haven’t seen since I last checked out the Catholics for a Free Choice website. And the comments were another case entirely; there were some good ones, but there were so many that advocated “boycotting” the new translation and other such childish bilge. It’s truly sad to see such antics.

    I’ve been following your blog for quite a while; I was wondering if you might take a look at mine, which I just started with a friend of mine. I realize that it can’t compare to yours, obviously, but I’m looking for as much input as I can, seeing as I am new to Blogger. If you have time to tell me what you think, I would greatly appreciate it. Regardless, may God bless you!

  4. Yep! It’s a covenant: we are free to accept it or reject it, and if we accept it then we have our responsibilities under its terms. The false translation of “for all” is one of the shibboleths that mark America’s bishops in their schism, along with the violence done to the angels’ message to the shepherds in St. Luke’s Gospel. They said, “and on Earth peace to Men of good will”, consonant with the covenant, not “peace on Earth, good will to Men”, as if it were all a free gift. If you hear that on Christmas, your priest and your bishop are in schism, purposefully or by culpable negligence using a false and condemned version of Scripture. But then those “missalettes” from Collegeville use those condemned versions, too–you need to know!

  5. I have to say thank you for posting this lament from NCR because otherwise I would never have seen it.

    Although I subscribe to Commonweal and America and U.S. Catholic in order to keep an eye on the activities of the Left in the Catholic Church, I simply can’t bring myself to subscribe to NCR.

    There are some depths to which I will not stoop and those are depths where the likes of Chittister and McBrien frolic.

    What a rag.

  6. I love the new translation! Went to Mass today, I found it better in many ways. The language is richer in the imagery it suggests, the prayers are not merely run through, but address God more reverently, and there is a more vivid expression of the Church’s faith in the holy Sacrifice, and in the offering we bring to the Majesty of God from the gifts He has given us.

    Just to be clear, Christ Himself said He would give His flesh “for the world”. So the old translation was perfectly valid, if understood carefully, that is, with respect to the virtue of the Sacrifice, as opposed to the fruits. For Christ died for all, but only the many will receive His salvation through their own fault.

  7. Not a fan of the new translation – spent all of mass trying not to mess up rather than pay attention! – but I’m not up in arms about it. Many other things I think are more important to get worked up about (which is probably my biggest issue with this undertaking). Admittedly I know very little Church history and tradition though, so as I challenge myself in that regards perhaps in time I will grow to love these new words.

    I suppose now that this has been pointed out though, I am very curious as to why exactly Jesus didn’t say all? If it’s just many, who is excluded? Is this just my misunderstanding of the word polys and what it was accepted as meaning in Jesus’ time? If anyone can shed some light on that I would greatly appreciate it.

  8. Now that I have the new missal it’s a lot easier — we were using the cards for seven weeks, but that required remembering when they came into play.

    More uniformity in the “And with your spirit” in the congretation, so it’s helping all around.

  9. Michael, that matches my own experience. But the area I go to church at is too rich to riot.

    Aloysius, what’s the best way to get ahold of you? You’re off to a good start, and I have some suggestions regarding your blog.

    Rachel Gray, yeah, that Theatre of the Word video is hilarious. But I’m not sure that it’s any more ludicrous than the real thing.

    Donal Mahoney, Fr. Andrew is the one who got me to read it; did you see his post before this one?

    Mary Catelli, “and with your spirit” was the major area that people were tripping up this morning. We’re hard-wired for a particular “peace be with you” response, and relearning takes a bit. I know how confusing the two different versions of the Glory Be can be (between the Rosary and the Liturgy of the Hours). It forces us to be more thoughtful in prayer, so I can’t say it upsets me.



  10. Jill, I’m hoping that a lot of the negative reactions are just borne out of unfamiliarity. I know that the language isn’t how we’re used to speaking (this was intentional). But think about the “Our Father.” It has the phrasing, “Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name.” Within the span of eight words, it uses three unfamiliar words: “art,” “hallowed,” and “Thy.” But we’re used to it now, to the point that saying, “Our Father, Who is in Heaven, Holy be Your Name” sounds weird and even excessively casual.

    As for why it matters, as Catholics we believe that lex orandi lex credendi: the law of prayer is the law of belief. That is, how we pray informs what we believe. These changes help to restore a sense of reverence for God. If it’s successful, it’ll help edify us and will probably save countless souls. And remember, we’re talking about the prayer that will be offered by millions upon millions of Catholics for the indefinite future. So I disagree that the time or money should have been invested in something else, instead (see the dialogue between Jesus and Judas in John 12:1-8).

    As for Jesus’ word choice, see Nishant’s comment. In Greek, “many” doesn’t mean, “a lot but not all.” It just means “a lot.” Jesus wasn’t speaking one way or another on the limits to the Atonement. And for the record, we believe that Christ is the Savior of the World (see my response to Nishant below).

    Nishant, yes. That’s absolutely right. We’re not Calvinists. We didn’t suddenly start believing in Limited Atonement. Calvinists believe that God is the Saviour of some men, only those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10, in contrast, calls God “the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe.” I’m probably going to steal your last paragraph in explaining this.

    KO Johnson, you’re really, really wrong on this.
    1) Salvation is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8). That said, salvation involves entrance into a covenantal community, the Church. As you said, “we are free to accept it or reject it, and if we accept it then we have our responsibilities under its terms.”
    2) The bishops and priests of the United States are not in schism. That term has a specific meaning in canon law.
    3) Falsely accusing them of schism is seriously sinful.
    4) The translation you’re claiming is a mark of schism was approved by the pope. Was the pope in schism from your Church, as well?
    5) Did Pope Benedict go into schism from your Church when he celebrated the Mass in English during his visits to the UK and US?

    I understand weariness with the old translation, and it was certainly an inadequate presentation of our common faith at points. But these wild charges you’re making are baseless detraction, and need to be corrected. Prudence is a virtue, detraction is a sin.



  11. Hello, Jill.

    One answer may be that Jesus is pointing to the reality that although Jesus died for all, not everyone accepts His gift.

    Another may be that He is using the phrase “for many” to refer to Himself as the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53:10-12. In those verses,”for many” is mentioned three times.

    There may be other reasons that Jesus used that phrase, but those are the two most common that I hear.

    I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

  12. Joe and Dennis (hello!) – thank you both for taking the time to explain.

    I pretty much accept and can admit that my dislike is related to the fact I am an immature toddler in my faith. So I’ll work on that and in time the new words might help edify me further too.

    I feel like the people who help me the most in that journey though are not on the Church’s payroll, but rather lay people who write blogs and send me Facebook messages and listen to my dumb questions and take the time to respond. Maybe that’s the whole point though… the Church leaders deal with the universal prayer and the church members pull each other along?

  13. Thank you for this post.

    It’s moments such as this that those who claim to be Catholic yet oppose anything smacking of orthodoxy are caught with their pants down.

    By opposing what Jesus actually said, they are revealing their misguided intentions.

    It’s time that the 1970s-Spirit-of-Vatican-Two golden moldies get with the program and cease attempts to impose an unchristian agenda on the Church.

  14. Even though the Sunday Mass was a little disjointed, because we were all trying to get used to the new and unfamiliar translation, I went away feeling refreshed and even jubilant. It’s unfortunate that some Catholics, who are voicing discouragement over the new translation, are even advocating dissent instead of taking time to recognize that the Holy Spirit is at work and His goal is to guide us to a greater state of holiness through a more faithful practice of the Liturgy.

    I’m sure in time we will find that this translation is not perfect either but, it’s light years better than the dumbed down version that was partially the cause of millions of Catholics walking away from the faith after Vatican II. Hopefully, many will hear of these changes and return Home. I for one am very glad to know that the revised language in the Liturgy, in the United States, will allow us to be more in communion with our brothers and sisters around the world.

    When situations arise that I find myself not understanding why the Church says or does anything, I always appreciate something St. Augustine said, “I believe that I may understand.” If humbling himself to the authority and wisdom of the Church was good enough for a Saint, I suppose it’s good enough for me too. 🙂 Thanks for posting an awesome blog!

  15. On the topic of translation, I wonder whether it is also time for a new edition of the NAB. Sometimes it is so unfaithful (i.e. incorrect) that I tell my students simply not to use it. A couple of examples:

    1. The story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38 – 42). It is commonly preached that Mary has chosen the “better” part by sitting at the Lord’s feet (and who can disagree?). But the degree of the adjective is positive, not comparative (τὴν ἀγαθὴν μερίδα). Oddly enough, the Vulgate translation uses the superlative degree (Maria enim optimam partem elegit). The NAB translation incorrectly reads, “Mary has chosen the better part,” when the Greek clearly reads, “Mary has chosen the good part.”

    2. Matthew 16:19. The NAB reads, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” A more literal translation would be “will have been bound” and “will have been loosed.” The verbs are future perfect periphrastic constructions formed from the future of the verb “to be” (εἰμί) and the perfect passive participle.

  16. Christopher, your experiences match my own. A few stumbles with the new translation — for example, I definitely still said “And also with you” (more than once) at Mass today — but overall, it’s thrilling and uplifting.

    Right now, I’m happy to have the speed bump, to let me (and everyone around me) know when I’m falling into rote memorization, rather than heartfelt prayer.

    And the new translations really do seem to be higher prayers. The Mass sounds a bit more like a love poem to (and from) God, which it should.

    Mark, I generally use Google Image search or Wikicommons. I’m a big fan of iconography and baroque art, and there’s a ton of it publicly available.

    AJM, interesting point. It does seem that the NAB suffers from many of the same flaws (excessively-dynamic equivalence). But given what a massive undertaking this was, I’m not holding my breath for an NAB renovation anytime soon.



  17. Joe,

    You can reach me at my email: [email protected], or just toss comments at the blog and its articles if you find my email to be too tedious to type into the address bar (which would be understandable – I’ve experienced it before). I realize I should just get a new one that’s easier on the fingers, but I haven’t brought myself to do so as of yet – I suppose it comes of still being a teenager or something.

    Oh, and thank you very much for looking! I’m extremely glad to hear that I’m off to a (reasonably) good start by your lights, and I look forward to any advice you might give.

    God bless!

  18. It’s funny. In SA we’ve been using the new translation in part since 2008 (the parts involving the laity). So I’ve only ever known this version (I started RCIA in 2010).

    I say it’s funny, because I wasn’t aware that we’d been using the NEW version all along, and was rather upset that most Catholic bloggers were celebrating the “demise” of a translation that I was in love with!

    You can imagine my relief when I found out this wasn’t the case 🙂

  19. Perhaps instead of trying to win by saying “for all” enough times and trying to raise Hell towards Heaven, perhaps we should try to win by instructing and supporting the “many” to be able to include “all” with the healing love of the Lord.

  20. Sorry if this is not the proper forum for this question, but i couldn’t find another way: We are a new prayer website ( and want to know your Reprint Permission Policy. Our membership comes from our local CA parish prayer groups (the twinned parish of St. James the Less, La Crescenta & Holy Redeemer, Montrose). Specifically, we are interested in this post and want to re-Blog it for the information of our members.

    We have been able to secure reprint permissions from CNA (Catholic News Agency), Catholicity,, etc. by providing FULL ATTRIBUTION of authorship of articles as well as an active link to the respective websites. We will be happy to abide in turn by your requirements.

    Thank you for your kind attention!

    Maria “Connie” I. Ko admin

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