Pro Multis

Cardinal Arinze, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has just affirmed that pro multis means “for many” and not “for all.” It’s a sad commentary on the state of ecclesiastical affairs that such a statement of the obvious had to come from Rome, but we are glad to hear it nonetheless. His Eminence published a document mandating that the proper translation be used in all future vernacular editions of the Novus Ordo Missae.

Without any indignation for the errant “approved translations” of the past thirty years, the document agrees with what traditionalists have been saying all along about the folly of putting “for all” in that place in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It’s just a wrong translation. Period. (In other words, the current English (and Italian, and German, etc.) translation is quoting Our Lord as “saying” something He did not say!) The arguments His Eminence gives are succinct and cogent. Compare them to this article, “Pro Multis: Can It Mean ‘For All’?,” written by a traditionalist on the web site of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

Those who have advanced and defended the mistranslation all these years — especially “conservative” apologists — have looked absurd all along. Now that Rome has pointed out the error in the approved translations, they look even more fatuous. After all, they were trying to defend Rome’s “approved translations.” Perhaps they will be less arrogant in defending the indefensible in the future.

Readers may recall that, back in June, the US Bishops Conference refused to implement the correct translation because this would be “giving in” to traditionalists. (See this brief piece by Father Brian Harrison, O.S.)

In the Summa (IIIa, Q.78, A.3, ad 8), St. Thomas gives two explanations why the words of consecration are appropriate: First, although Christ’s blood was objectively shed for all (and, therefore, sufficient to save all), “for you,” he says, is a reference to the Jews, while “for many” is a reference to the gentiles. Alternatively, “for you” may refer to the priests who offer the sacrifice and those who receive it at the Mass, while the “many” are those for whom the sacrifice is offered. Others explain that the “many” are those who are now benefiting from the sacrifice being offered. That is what makes liturgical sense in the Mass: At this moment there are many (namely, those presently in the Mystical Body and in grace) who are subjectively benefiting from the blood shed here and now in this Chalice. In that sense, it does not benefit all.