George Ripon wrote this commentary a couple of weeks ago and by coincidence the first available spot for publication on Catholica has turned out to be the day after the Vatican announced the New Missal Translations have finally been approved. Our own sense here at Catholica is that all it is going to achieve is a further significant exit from the pews adding to many other factors that have been emptying the pews for decades now. George Ripon thinks we should still protest. Who has the energy left to protest if they have been unable to read the signs for the past five decades? ...Catholica Editor
The New English Mass Translations (Still "fixing" the unbroken!)
When we see emotive language coupled with opinion treated as fact used in support of proposals should we not be alert and ask, what is going on here? This struck me as I read reports in The Record newspaper, (Catholic newspaper for the Archdiocese of Perth, Western Australia 10 Feb 2010) following the National Liturgical Conference held there earlier in February. Without any real consultation with the faithful, Rome has decided to impose new Mass translations on the people who still attend week-end Masses. There is genuine concern not only at the discourteous lack of consultation but also at the quality of the English translations. As indicated I am working from the seminar reports as published in The Record.
Vatican II made the long overdue decision to translate the Mass into the language of the local people. For the English-speaking world responsibility was rightly given to the English speaking bishops who then set up the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). This produced the 1973 Missal which we have used for the last 37 years.
As I said I am always suspicious when I see emotive language and unproven assertions used in support of proposals, such as the following:
The new Mass translations will address current deficiencies.
A broad sweeping statement unsupported by any evidence?
It will faithfully implement the liturgical vision of the Second Vatican Council.
The original ICEL did this very well 37 years ago and it was joyfully "received" by the People of God. Is "Reception" another no-no?
It will fulfil the reforms of the much maligned Council of Trent (1545 - 1563).
What on earth has "Trent" got to do with the "price of fish" in 2010? Why put the clock back 400+ years?
With great respect to Archbishop Coleridge I found his address, as reported, confusing and more appropriate to an academic lecture to seminary students rather than a message to liturgists who will have to justify and explain the changes to the people in the pews. After acknowledging the merits of the 1973 Missal he went on to say:
The 1973 translation has serious problems theologically and consistently bleaches out metaphor which does scant justice to the highly metaphoric discourse of Scripture and of the Church Fathers.
What in God's name does this mean? are we talking about the Desert Fathers? Does this mean that we have been attending "invalid and inlawful" Masses for the last 37 years? How will "new" English take us out of the banal and lift us up to divine abandonment?
Later on he said:
Occasional claims of the reforms being a merely political Right-wing plot to turn the clock back miss the point of reform and the purpose of the Mass which is primarily Christ's action, mot just that of the faithful and that it is a gift of God, mot something to be manipulated.
The Archbishop will be well aware that many expert world-wide commentators are convinced that we are in fact, facing a blatant attempt by Rome to set the clock back. See the reference to Trent (above). The word "reform" now has a new meaning in Rome. It is used as a euphemism to cover-up the undoing of good changes which followed Vatican II, the inspired initiative of John XXIII by far the greatest Pope of the 20th (and 21st.) centuries. While again asking what it means we might add, who is manipulating the agenda — Rome?
Referring to a claim that the initiative (the translations) were a "retreat" from what Vatican II tried to promote and a betrayal therefore of the Council and by implication of the Holy Spirit the Archbishop said:
If I thought that were remotely true I would not have shed the blood, sweat and tears of the last seven years and the thousands who have been involved in this process. We would have saved ourselves a Lot of time and money if we just stuck with the Latin but that's not what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
This comment gives rise to a number of issues the first being the reference to "seven years". This goes back to the time when the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) in effect took over the ICEL. Long established English scholars were eased out and replaced by CDW appointments. There is no indication that the new Chair, Bishop Arthur Roach or the new Executive Secretary Mons. Bruce Harberd (an ex-Anglican) were elected by the English-speaking bishops. I could find no record of any English bishops serving on the CDW at the time. So the dice was loaded against English scholarship. The results are there to see! Latin was removed by Vatican II 45 years ago!
The next question that arises is, who are the "thousands" involved in the process? We don't have thousands of English speaking bishops. Were others involved, if so we are entitled to know, especially in my case, if the Archdiocese of Melbourne had any involvement?
Thirdly, in this quota and in other reports on the seminar the "Holy Spirit" is invoked. For one side, in a controversial matter, to claim divine backing comes close to a breach of the Second Commandment.
As for "blood, sweat and tears", with respect to His Grace there are far more pressing matters in the Church today appropriate for the shedding of "blood, sweat and real tears".
A pathological obsession with Latin...
What really intrigues ma in this whole business is what I see as a pathological obsession with Latin. It seems to be assumed that everyone agrees that Latin should be the starting point. While denying that it's an attempt to put the clock back the Archbishop goes on to extol the "much maligned" (by whom?) Council of Trent. In 1570 Pius V produced the Roman Missal, now in 2010 the basis for the new translations. Are we still not going back to the past? Having assumed, incorrectly, that we are all agreed on a Latin translation we then go on to translating old Latin into old English. This makes no sense.
Fr. Peter Williams, secretary of the Australian Bishops Liturgy Commission was also present and he contributed some colourful observations to the discussions. "The train is leaving the station" be on it or miss out, with 86% of Catholics not even on the platform, does it matter? And of course as always, "the church to which we belong is not a democracy", so another reminder for the People of God, don't expect to be heard. A further gem "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" and once we start using it we'll get used to it. That remains to be seen.
It's clear froth The Record reports that all was not sweetness and light. Mercy Sr. Adele Howard faced anger, disapproval and protests as she presented proposed resources. When will our Church learn that the days are long gone when the remaining people in the pews will meekly accept what is being foisted on them by Rome supported by our bishops? It's not good enough in 2010. I suspect that protests will continue as the liturgy train moves around Australia in the months ahead, I suspect that many will be happy to be left behind standing on the platform. Clare Johnson of ACU Sydney acknowledged the lack of consultation and agreed that some Catholics would be unaware of what was coming. I would say the vast majority of Catholics are still unaware, due to the secretive way in which the whole process was organised. She suggested a gradual process. What if we said put it off for three years for proper consultation with the people. It's not too late to do the right thing.
How about the following for critical comment?
In recent decades liturgy has often become a powder-keg issue in the Church and Australia with numerous claims and complaints from baptised Catholics and clergy at novelties and inventions carried out by over-enthusiastic liturgists, clergy and schools on a widespread scale.
I suspect here a move to put school liturgies back in a black and white straitjacket devoid of imagination. Who is to judge a group of pupils with drawings on the wall, sitting on the floor of the Sanctuary around the altar during a school Mass? Liturgical rigidity is one of many factors responsible for the dramatic drop in Mass attendances. I have not been to St. Mary's South Brisbane (in exile) but it's clear that freeing up the liturgy has been "received" joyfully by those who take part.
As I said at the beginning I have had difficulty understanding Archbishop Coleridge as reported and edited, see the following:
An overly cerebral approach to liturgy, loss of ritual, over-simplification of rites, loss of a sense of silence, beauty and an unwitting clericalisation have all led to the Mass lacking its full potential to cathecise the faithful and renew the Church.
Even if liturgical experts agreed with this. which I doubt, would putting the Mass into different English solve the problems. Here again I have real doubts. In context with my confusion I was amused to read of the Mass "drowning under the weight of supposed catechetical verbosity"!
Underlying the seminar theme was the inference that Vatican II had failed liturgically. The reforms were not properly implemented and taken too far ... the liturgy has largely lost the sense of the liturgy as primarily Christ's action. These and other matters mentioned above continue to confuse me. He went on to bag liturgical training in his time at the Melbourne Seminary. Again I ask, does changing the language of the Mass solve the problems highlighted? I remain unconvinced. Again, with respect to His Grace I "did' my Catechism in my Irish primary school in the thirties and I don't go to Mass for more catechesis.
The obsession with changing the language of the Mass is in my view out of proportion to any problems. After all the liturgy is not an end in itself, it's simply the environment which facilitates our worship and prayer. Christ's action at the Last Supper could be enacted as it was in the early church, simply and reverently for the benefit of those present in the home. Those in power have always loved setting up structures, the more complicated the better, A rod for the backs of the faithful. Here, sadly our Catholic Church loves structures, just look at the Vatican.
A quick look here at some of the changes. These can be accessed on the US Bishops Conference website at www.USCCB.org/romanmissal/. (Editor's Note: This website is now one of the leading resources worldwide about the changes. You will find pdf files concerning particular sections of the Mass HERE.) The principles seem to be, add new words, return to old wordings, substitute "I" for "We" — which seems odd in a communal celebration and generally repeat concepts. This latter makes the Gloria and the Creed longer. Going back to "and with your spirit" hits the ear straight away. "And Also With You" has become the title for an excellent publication outlining how we got into this whole sorry mess. It's available on www.catholicsforministry.com.au website and its a great read (LINK to "And Also with You" pdf version.) The Penitential Act (Rite) A has "I have sinned greatly .... through my most grievous fault (three faults!!)". Are we all public sinners? The worst howler is in the Nicene Creed, "consubstantial with the Father". The Father is not substance so Jesus cannot be consubstantial with the Father. The Memorial Acclamations (now the "Mystery of Faith") are fiddling with words for the sake of change and no improvement. Readers of the texts will make their own assessments. I only looked at the Mass wordings excluding the Eucharistic Prayers which will also be changed, Please don't interfere with my favourite, No. 3: "Father You are holy indeed and all creation rightly gives You praise...". You can't improve on that. With another 20 years to go on translating Sacraments and other rites think of the horrendous cost to parishes for new books and all for, what?
This led me to the real question, Why all this fuss about something so trifling when, in spite of all the spin and rhetoric, these changes will not renew the Church or get the faithful back to Mass? They will cause confusion at the celebration for a time before settling down. I suspect that many will continue to respond "And also with you". Good on them!
Then, of course it hit me, Rome taking more power and control. You only have to read "And Also With You" to see the history and rational behind Rome's move here, They are terrified of allowing the faithful to do or say anything with the result that people become more and more disenchanted and drift away in ever-increasing numbers. After the take-over of the scholarly ICEL the process became secretive and bishops around the English-speaking world were presented with a fait accompli. If they were allowed to speak out I am certain that many would agree with the objections raised. We only need a few bold bishops to stand up and say, "Not in my backyard (Diocese)" to get the ball. rolling. Also when they see what is going on, many parish priests will say "We can't afford hundreds of dollars for all these new books and don't our bishops know how tight our budgets are? Apart from this we would prefer to give the money to the poor".
So my conclusion, "Not happy Jan", or should that be "Mark!"? Before it's too late why not abandon this trivial pursuit nonsense and concentrate on the two major problems confronting our Church to-day. The first is the sex abuse scandal now exploding world-wide and the second Rome's dismal failure to hear the cries of bishops, priests and people for the priests we need. There are many other problems but enough said, for the moment.
George Ripon 12/04/10
What are your thoughts on this commentary?