Pope Francis said this week during an interview for an Italian television network that he wanted to change the Lord’s Prayer because it was sending the wrong message about God.
There’s one frequently used translation of the prayer that says of God, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The Pope said that line suggests God leads people into temptation. But that’s not true, he said. God saves people from Satan’s temptations.
The Pope said he wanted other churches to adopt what they’ve already done in France, which is to change the wording so it says something more akin to “Do not let us enter into temptation.”
While that makes sense, at least from the Pope’s perspective, any changes to something so ingrained in Catholics’ heads needs to be handled with caution. After all, if the Lord’s Prayer can be changed on a whim for the sake of convenience, isn’t that pushing the envelope on what else the Church ought to change?
Rev. Ian Paul, an Anglican theologian, told The Guardian that the change would make traditionalists nervous:
“The word in question is peirasmos [from New Testament Greek] which means both to tempt and to be tested. So on one level the pope has a point. But he’s also stepping into a theological debate about the nature of evil.
“In terms of church culture, people learn this prayer by heart as children. If you tweak the translation, you risk disrupting the pattern of communal prayer. You fiddle with it at your peril.”
The one thing the Catholic Church offers, that no atheists can ever really mess with, is the idea of tradition. We’ve always done it this way and we’ll always do it this way. The Church deserves a lot of criticism for sticking to their beliefs that priests can’t get married, and women can’t become priests, and marriage equality is a sin, and God doesn’t want you to use birth control. But at least they’re consistent, even if it is to their own peril. Those are things that need to change. And yet the Church hesitates, partly because they believe they’re doing what God wants, but also because they know that tweaking the rules would alienate the older conservative Catholics who attend Mass every week.
Then again, slight changes to language — with the goal of making Mass more understandable for people in the pews — have usually gone over just fine, even if there was some awkwardness at first. Comedian John Mulaney, who was raised Catholic, explained his own confusion about what to say after the words, “Peace be with you.”
It’s confusing at first, then you get used to it. The same thing happened in the 1960s when Masses went from Latin to English. And the same thing will happen with the Lord’s Prayer if and when it’s altered.
If there’s one reason non-Catholics should care about all this, though, it’s because any changes to Catholic traditions are a good sign. It means the Church is willing to adapt when leaders can make the argument that what they’re doing is in line with their interpretation of the Bible.
Given all the Christians who could say their acceptance of LGBTQ people and their support of women’s rights are also biblically sound, maybe we’ll see changes there in the future, too.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Nicholas for the link)