Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pro Multis

The question of "pro multis" is coming to the forefront again.  What is this exactly and why now?  Well, these are Latin terms which mean, literally, "for many" and there are changes to the Mass being proposed which should be going into effect soon.  So let us move into some more detail.  

In the consecration of the the wine into Christ's blood during the Eucharist - Scripture records this as follows:
Matthew 26:27-28:  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. (NAB)
Mark 14:23-24: 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. (NAB).
The Latin version (which is the official translation of the Mass) still agrees with the Traditional Latin version - which is in agreement with Scripture!  The Latin at the consecration of the wine into Christ's blood says: 
Accipite et bibite ex eo omnes:  hic est enim calix Sanguinis mei novi et aeterni testamenti, qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem peccatorum.  (Current Novus Ordo in Latin)

So, to recap a bit before proceeding, Scripture says "for many" and the official translation of the Mass says "pro multis" which means "for many" - so to say "for many" is an accurate translation of both Scripture AND the official translation of the Mass!

So, why are we talking about this?  Well, in 1970, when Pope Paul VI offered the "Novus Ordo Missae" (New Order of the Mass) as an alternative (he did not promulgate it as a replacement of the Traditional Latin Mass - yet that's what most bishops did) these words, "pro multis," while they remained in the official translation - in most (not all) vernaculars, these words were translated to "for all."  To say "for all" in Latin that would be "omnibus" or "pro omni."  So clearly, the words "pro multis" do NOT mean "for all" they mean "for many."

I've also heard that many priests are objecting to the change to the more literally correct terminology.  One argument I've heard (all along and again just recently) is that the offering of Christ on the Cross was indeed for all - and YES it IS for all!   However, we know that not all will be saved (that would be the heresy of Universal Salvation).   Well, to these fine priests we must remind them - this would be a matter of good catechesis - something THEY are responsible for!  It is their duty to teach the portion of the Flock to which they have been assigned to serve - to understand both the literal words of consecration, which are the Words of Christ, AND the broader catechetical understand that Jesus' Sacrifice is for all men, but since all men are not forgiven - it is proper to say "pro multis" or "for many," just as Scripture says it. 

We must keep in mind that when these words are spoken the subject matter is the forgiveness of sins.  It must also be noted, that when those who translated the vernacular to say "for all" could not stop with just those words!  Had they stopped there, the statement would have become heretical.  Allow me to explain, using only English.  The traditional translation is,
"...for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on for many for the forgiveness of sins." 
If we only changed the words "for many" to "for all" it would then read: 
"...for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on for all for the forgiveness of sins."
The latter statement is heretical because though He did die for all, the forgiveness of sins is not "for all."  If ALL sins were forgiven, then there would be no more sin whatsoever!  Salvation would be accomplished and ALL MEN would be automatically saved.  Again, this would be the heresy of Universal Salvation.  So, in translating "pro multis" to "for all" - the words which followed HAD to be changed as well!  It goes from "for many for the forgiveness sins" to "for all, so that sins MAY be forgiven."  This would seem to be a much harder catechetical lesson for our priests and bishops to teach!  It leaves open that sins MAY NOT be forgiven, even "for many" whereas to say "for many" that sins WILL BE forgiven makes it clear - that those who sincerely repent (the "many") of their sins, their sins are forgiven them. 

The updated translation of the Mass in English has been approved, but has not yet been promulgated, but for the consecration of the precious blood, it now says:
And this is true to the Traditional interpretation as well as to Scripture.  There are some other changes as well, but not on the subject of this article.  This translation, getting the Order of the Mass more in line with Scripture and Tradition, is a good move.  Ever since the promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, the altering of the words to "for all" has been a sticking point for many (no pun intended).    Many "Traditionalists" have (wrongly) stated that the changing of those words invalidated the Novus Ordo.  As I mentioned earlier, if they had only changed those words and not the words which followed as well, then they may have had a point regarding validity (for outright heresy would have invalidated the Mass).  Perhaps these changes, which are to take effect soon (I have not heard the exact date as yet) will help heal the rift between some Traditionalists too.

The USCCB site, offers answers of "6 Questions" about this topic too: 

An article somewhat critically written by John Vennari expresses many of the same thoughts and addresses many of the same concerns, and demonstrates the frustration of the Traditionalists, which you can see in the title of the article "Post-Conciliar Vatican Finally Tells the Truth About Pro Multis":

Full text proposed for the English Mass:  


  1. Thanks for this post. Out of curiosity I went to BlueLetterBible and looked at the N.T. Greek uses of the words we translate as 'many' and 'all'.

    Every use I found of 'many' was translated as πολύς/polys; every use of 'all' was πᾶς/pas. I found no overlap between the them, i.e. no case of polys for all, or pas for many. So there is a true distinction, and I'm not real clear on the Church's motives for not leaving well-enough alone with regard to 'multis' which translates 'polys,' but not 'pas.'

  2. Well, see my blog for 6/23/2006. Pope Paul VI himself may shed some light on this.

  3. What else bugs me is this line:

    "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

    It's so far removed from the centurion's words that I have to explain it from scratch to my catechism class every year.

    I do wish that 'they' would just let the Bible be the Bible when it comes to quoting it in the Mass.

  4. Well, that too is changing! I plan to blog separately on some of the other changes back to the more traditional view - and that's another one which goes back to a more traditional rendering:

    "Lord, I am not worthy
    that you should enter under my roof,
    but only say the word
    and my soul shall be healed."

    (Under my breath a bit, so as to not distract others, I've been saying it this way for years - even before seeing the proposed official changes).

    In JMJ,

  5. I have been making all of the responses in Latin anyway because ICEL was just too modernist for my taste. I couldn't in good conscience agree with the translations and I knew that the truly official text was the Latin. It seems to bother others but it is the same thing JRR Tolkien did, so I figured why not?

  6. My solution was simple enough, the English translation was clearly defective to me so I just made the responses in Latin. I figured that the Vatican just hadn't gotten around to fixing the issues yet and would eventually. It is hard to fault one for giving responses from the official text (the Latin) but you do get some pretty serious glares sometimes.

  7. Hi Chris,
    Keep in mind, unless your bishop has authorized the use of the Novus Ordo in Latin - while your responses are most certainly valid, they are illicit. I too have been doing what you do - but I use a true English translation (also not licit). I also say "I believe..." in the Credo, as that is what "credo" means! Credo is not "we believe." However, as to not cause scandal, I do this rather quietly so that others are not disturbed that what I'm saying is not quite what they are saying.

    In JMJ,


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