Tuesday, November 15, 2005

U.S. Bishops and the proposed English translation of the Roman Missal

[Comment: First off, let me state outright I believe there is a place for pastoral considerations in regards liturgical changes. Second, I don't doubt that some of these bishops are earnest and good-willed in their concern.

That being said, I find the sudden liturgical conservativism from some parties, who aren't usually liturgically "conservative", to be rather convenient. In the case of those who are normally "liberal" with the liturgy, it seems to me what is more likely at the heart of this conservativism is less a pastoral concern so much as an ideological distaste. Only God can read their hearts of course, and I won't presume to make my thought on this an absolute certainty, but I make that discernment based on the fact that it seems as though many such are only too happy to push forward liturgical changes provided they move in a particular ideological direction -- now that the direction is reversed, we are suddenly told that we need to be careful about changing the liturgy. As I say, it seems all too convenient.

This conservativism would be well placed 40 years ago in regards ICEL's and Consilium's original work. In our present situation however, we are dealing with a problematic translation which, arguably, has contributed to a horizontalization of the Roman liturgy in the English speaking world, this is a theological problem that must be addressed.

As for what has become "more meaningful" (more familiar is more accurate I should think), should not the question be asked, what is the meaning that is being derived by an impoverished translation that often excludes the vertical language of the liturgy? Should not the shepherds lead the flock in this regard rather than vice versa since it isn't merely a question of aesthetics, but rather one of spiritual and theological content?]

U.S. bishops disagree over changes in liturgy
Sexual abuse issues still a concern, cropping up in many other discussions
Tuesday, November 15, 2005

By Ann Rodgers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WASHINGTON -- At a meeting where the sexual abuse scandal was not on their public agenda, the U.S. Catholic bishops repeatedly raised the topic in matters ranging from their budget to an acrimonious discussion about proposed changes to the English liturgy.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago noted that a long-standing division between bishops who prefer standard American English and those who want a literal rending of Latin has become more complex. Some bishops on both sides have realized that the current English text is more familiar and meaningful to many Catholics than the centuries-old Latin text once was, he said.

"There are those who have been quite critical of the present translation, but who are now saying that we don't want to disturb the people, especially in the situation of weakened episcopal authority we have now," he said, referring to distrust of bishops who failed to remove child molesters from the priesthood.


But the greatest tension at the meeting occurred in a discussion on liturgical translations. The Vatican, which has said that all translations must follow literally from the Latin, wants the English-speaking bishops worldwide to vote on a new text that is now being prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

Some bishops, including Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Liturgy, believe the changes are clunky and obscure. For instance, in the Nicene Creed, "one in being with the father" would be replaced with "consubstantial with the father."

Yesterday, Bishop Trautman shared the results of a summer survey that showed the bishops were deeply divided over the proposed changes.

One would change the words of The Gloria -- the hymn beginning "Glory to God in the highest" -- so it could not be sung with any tune now in use.

The second would change the prayer "Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed" to "Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

The third follows the priest's blessing of "the Lord be with you." It would change the congregation's response from "and also with you" to "and with your spirit."

The Rev. Bruce Harbart, executive secretary of the commission, defended the changes as more faithful to biblical language. The Apostle Paul greeted people with "the Lord be with your spirit," he said. And the phrase "Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" recalls the Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant.

According to Bishop Trautman's summer survey, 12 percent of the bishops believe the proposed translation overall was excellent, 40 percent rated it as good, 40 percent rated it as fair and 7 percent said it was poor.

"We are a divided body on this translation issue. At this time we do not have a two-thirds vote necessary for canonical approval," he said.

Bishop Trautman argued that the Vatican regulations give the bishops some leeway when a text is so familiar that changing it would cause pastoral problems.

Several bishops questioned Bishop Trautman sharply. In some cases where his committee recommended keeping the current translation, said Bishop Allen Vigneron of Oakland, Calif., there was no criticism of the proposed translation in the survey results.

Bishop Trautman replied that although there might not have been a criticism of a specific phrase, many bishops indicated unhappiness with the overall text.

Bishop Donald Wuerl of Pittsburgh did not address the issue from the floor, but said he had "a good number of concerns" about the proposed changes.

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