Wednesday, February 08, 2017

An Excellent Article on Revisiting Liturgiam Authenticam

I strongly recommend to our readers that they click over to Catholic World Report for a superb article by Nicholas Senz, director of Religious Education at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Mill Valley, California. In it, Mr Senz addresses the recent papal proposal to “review” the principles that guide liturgical translations, as well as the contentions of one Fr Michael Ryan that this review is warranted particularly by the pastoral style of Pope Francis. (Fr Ryan is a priest of the Archdiocese of Seattle, and a longtime vocal opponent of the new English translation of the Mass.) First, he addresses the idea that a “solemn” form of language must perforce be somber or depressing, and puts the idea of “humility” in its proper place with a quote from C.S. Lewis that should be translated into Latin and added to the GIRM.

“ must be rid of the hideous idea, fruit of a widespread inferiority complex, that pomp, on the proper occasions, has any connection with vanity or self-conceit. …The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender’s inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual.” (Back in the bad old days, this was also known as “false humility.”)

He then addresses the fact that “(d)ecades of poor catechesis have caused the average layperson’s theological vocabulary to atrophy”; I think it goes without saying that such poverty of catechesis was partly caused and partly reinforced by the poverty of the old translation. (In the latter context, we should probably add one of the adjectives commonly joined to the word “poverty”, such as “extreme” or “abject.”) And so, in regard to some of the words that have been deemed objectionable, such as “oblation” and, of course, the perennial difficult word par excellence, “consubstanital,” Mr Senz writes very wisely, “This says less about the fittingness of the words themselves than (it does about) the failure of the Church to impart their meaning. People could learn these terms again, if they were used and explained. We should always be wary of those who doubt the capacities of others—whether it’s their ability to learn, or to understand, or to live the moral life.”

The substance of his critique is addressed to Fr Ryan’s idea that the pastoral style of Pope Francis, which the latter describes as “simplicity, clarity, directness,” etc., somehow makes the use of words like “consubstantial” unjustifiable. (I am not making that up.) To this, Senz rightly replies that the liturgy is not supposed to be an expression of ANY Pope’s personal preferences, much less of his pastoral style. He uses the term “ultramontanism” to describe this, but here I hazard to suggest that this word has become loaded with too much of the history and politics of the last century and a half or more of the Church’s life. He might well have used Fr Hunwicke’s comical neologism “hypersuperueberpapalist,” as he rightly draws the unavoidable bizarre conclusion from Fr Ryan’s bizarre premise: if the liturgy must be retranslated to suit the style of this Papacy, why should it not be retranslated again to suit the style of the next one, and the next one after that, and will Fr Ryan feel the same about this if the next Pope is Cardinal Sarah or Burke?

Anyway, do yourself a favor and read the whole article.

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