Sunday, 14 February 2010

The Confiteor: I Confess

The Latin, Old Translation, and New Translation of the Confiteor, changes in bold

Click here for a click to a downloadable WORD document of this material

The Latin
Confiteor Deo omnipotenti
et vobis, fratres,
quia peccavi nimis
cogitatione, verbo,
opere, et omissióne:
[All strike their breast]
mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Vírginem,
omnes Angelos et Sanctos,
et vos, fratres,
orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.

Old Translation
I confess to almighty God,
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned
through my own fault,
[All strike their breast]
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;
and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
all the angels and saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord, our God.

New Translation: Changes in bold
I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
[All strike their breast]
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;

therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin,
all the Angels and Saints,
and you, my brothers and sisters,
to pray for me to the Lord our God.

The practice of confessing our guilt at the start of the liturgy is something that is very alien to the modern mentality, and yet, it is practice that is very deeply rooted in our Christian thought and practice.
(1) Modernity’s loss of the “sense of sin”
It is often remarked that many people today have little “sense of sin” and this is because they often have little explicit faith in God. As Pope Benedict recently noted, when there is no longer a clear faith in God then "the sense of offense against God - the true sense of sin – dissipates”. This is a trend that was noted by popes throughout the 20th century and still today. By starting the Mass with this prayer we are seeking to re-connect with the Christian awareness that sin is not just a failing and not just a sin against our neighbour but is fundamentally an offence against God.
(2) Confessing our guilt frees us from guilt
One of the tragic consequences of modernity’s loss of the sense of sin is that although “the 'sense of sin' has been lost ... 'guilt complexes' have increased”, as Pope Benedict has noted. Facing our guilt and seeking forgiveness frees us from guilt, a freedom that is both spiritual and psychological.
(3) Striking the chest
One of the ancient practices that is a part of this prayer is the striking of the chest. While this gesture is to be done by both the people and the priest in many places this seems to have dropped out of fashion: the new translation provides us with a reminder that this is something that everyone should be doing.
(4) The new translation: “greatly” sinned “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”
As the above indicates, the new translation is simply a more faithful and accurate translation of the Latin and should help us to better recover the “sense of sin” and better prepare ourselves for Mass.

Fr Dylan James, Shaftesbury, 14th February 2010


  1. The new translation stinks. Wordy, it brings no meat to the meanings of the words.

    1. As someone with clinical depression, I'd argue that it brings a horrible new meaning to the words.

      The Vatican II translation focuses on the fact that there are many ways one can sin. The focus is on the universal nature of wrongdoing, and thus doesn't make an individual feel singled out as the Worst Person Ever.

      This new translation is guaranteed to make any Church members with clinical depression or general anxiety disorder feel 100% worse, because "mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" is what our brains are telling us already, all the time: "It's my fault, it's my fault, everything bad that happens is all my fault." If this were the prayer we'd been saying when I was a teen in the 90's, I can say with certainty that I would not have survived high school.

      And that's ignoring the fact that now, 7-year-olds are taught to say "consubstantial" in the Nicene Creed. Children shouldn't be forced to recite anything that they can't understand the meaning of. Was "one in being with the Father," or even "made of the same substance as the Father," REALLY too far from the meaning of the Latin there?!

      To me, the "New Mass" is just another sign out of many that the RCC has completely lost touch with the laity--you know, the majority of the church.