Sunday, July 23, 2006

Vox Clara reviews U.S. bishops' proposals for wording in Mass prayers

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Vatican-appointed committee of English-speaking bishops has reviewed the amendments and adaptations approved by the U.S. bishops in a new translation of the main prayers for Mass.

Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes of New Orleans, a member of the Vox Clara Committee, said members reviewed and discussed each of the U.S.-proposed changes to the text prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy.

The Vox Clara Committee, which met July 17-21 at the Vatican, advises the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments on English-language translations. The congregation must approve translations adopted by a national bishops' conference before they can be used in parishes.

Archbishop Hughes said Vox Clara spent a significant amount of time on the translation approved in June by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops because it was the only conference to have approved the text with amendments and adaptations.

The ICEL text of the Order of the Mass also has been adopted by the bishops' conferences of England and Wales, Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. The Canadian and Irish bishops are expected to vote on the text in October, and the Indian bishops will vote on it in January.

The Order of the Mass contains the main, constant parts of the Mass, including the penitential rite, Gloria, creed, eucharistic prayers, eucharistic acclamations, Our Father and other prayers and responses used daily.

Archbishop Hughes said that as a member of a Vatican advisory body he was not free to share Vox Clara's reactions to the U.S. text, or to try to guess how the congregation would respond to the U.S. bishops' request for approval.

However, he said: "Some of the adaptations are more substantial than others. Those that are not, we dealt with expeditiously and recommended approval."

Currently, the United States is the only country that does not use the phrase "consubstantial with the Father" in describing Jesus. The U.S. bishops proposed to continue using the phrase "one in being with the Father."

During the U.S. bishops' June meeting in Los Angeles, Archbishop Hughes' motion to keep the word "consubstantial" was defeated.

While he would not share details about the Vox Clara discussion of the term, he reiterated his personal position that "'consubstantial' has a very significant and sacred history in the church. It is a term that helped sort out controversy in the fourth century about the divinity of Christ."

The Vatican has encouraged English-speaking bishops' conferences to work closely with ICEL to perfect an exact translation of Mass texts from Latin into an English text that could be used everywhere in the world.

The Vatican has not indicated publicly how much of a problem the U.S. bishops will face getting their specific adaptations approved.

Msgr. James P. Moroney, a consultant to Vox Clara and executive director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy, said, "It is everyone's intent, hope and goal to have one English-language text for the whole English-speaking world. That hope is shared by ICEL, Vox Clara and the Holy See.

"Is it possible to have exceptions? That depends on how many amendments come in and if they truly reflect variations in how English is spoken" in different countries, he said.

Archbishop Hughes said one thing is clear with the adoption of the ICEL text by large majorities within national bishops' conferences: It is a sign that bishops have accepted the 2001 Vatican guidelines on translations, "Liturgiam Authenticam" ("The Authentic Liturgy").

The archbishop said Vox Clara members did not discuss whether or not it would be better for bishops to publish and distribute the new Order of the Mass once it is approved by the Vatican or to wait for the completion of the entire Roman Missal, which includes the prayers that change each Sunday and feast day.

"My own position would be cautious because I think it will be important to offer an appropriate period of catechesis to both priests and the people and to do it simultaneously," he said.

"The 'Ordo' has most of the people's parts so it would be possible to give specific catechesis to the lay faithful," he said.

But using the new translation is not simply a matter of getting used to reading different words out loud, the archbishop said.

"We have a whole generation of priests who have known nothing other than the original English translation of the missal. Because it was done quickly, unfortunately, some important doctrinal points were left out," he said.

As an example, Archbishop Hughes cited the priest's prayer from the penitential rite, which currently reads: "May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and bring us to everlasting life."

The new text says: "May Almighty God have mercy on you and, having forgiven your sins, lead you to everlasting life."

"Because of the way it was translated," he said, "people have been led to believe that some kind of absolution was being offered."

As for the creed, which is being changed from "We believe" to "I believe," the archbishop said, "It will be important for celebrants to explain that each person coming to celebrate the Eucharist is invited to express his or her faith, which is the church's faith."

Catechesis prior to the use of the new texts will help prepare people to understand the changes and celebrate better, he said.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: