An Open Letter to Benedict XVI

[Ed. note: this letter, written three years ago, will still be of interest to many.]

Benedict XVI, Bishop of Rome
The Vatican 00120, Italy

Dear brother in Christ,

I have not seen a definitive document and am told there is no such thing yet available, but I assume the reports are true that you plan unilaterally to re-work the common English translations of the Ordinary of the Mass.  May I express my pain?  I was encouraged to publish an open letter and am willing to have a public debate if you would like, but I would prefer to address you directly.

I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, among Protestants who had almost no associations with Catholics, though I lived right next to many of them.  Not until I moved away to college, seminary, and other graduate study did I come to see how tragic that division was.  I now count Catholics among some of my most valued colleagues and am immensely grateful for the strides we have made together in many ways, not the least of which are the common translations of the texts we share.

Protestants are notorious for their sectarian tendencies.  These tendencies point to a misunderstanding of the church catholic and the sixteenth century Reformation, but that has not restrained ruptures which are often little more than attacks on the common life of the baptized people of God.  I have always assumed that bishops who stand in the line of Gregory the Great and his pastoral concerns are wiser.

Changing the texts of the Ordinary of the Mass seems to me like a sectarian Protestant assault on your own people.  Both faithful and marginal Catholics know these common English texts from memory.  They will now have to learn new ones, no small matter when it involves re-wording what is already known.  All the musical settings will have to be re-done.  That’s a large compositional matter, but it’s also a didactic and pastoral dilemma which appears to deny your own ecclesiological presuppositions – for example, that the church as sacramental organism does not proceed by radical rupture.

Not only are Catholics involved.  So are other Christians.  The common texts we have struggled so hard to figure out together are used by families who each week attend services in two heritages, one Roman Catholic and one perhaps Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopal.  Some families don’t attend services in both traditions, but they hear the same lectionary and confess the same Creed in separate services.  These families will now be divided by different details of wording for the Ordinary, so that they will have difficulty speaking or singing common texts together any more.

Maybe there are good reasons for new translations, though I fail to see what they are.  If changes are to be made, however, it seems wise for all of us to agree on the most minimal and judicious ones.  Otherwise, not only do divisive problems appear, but Protestant prejudice against you is re-instated and unleashed.  With one stroke forty years of ecumenical good will are jeopardized, and it becomes more difficult than ever for those of us who are committed to support you and work with you.

With deepest sadness,

Paul Westermeyer
Professor of Church Music and Cantor, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN
Director of the MSM, with St. Olaf College
9 October 2006

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45 comments

  1. The problem is the texts were so manifestly defective to begin with – they should never have been approved since they vary substantively from the Latin – which is the governing version. Also, how strongly did you make this point (assuming you were old enough) when the Bugnini Mass was sprung on an unsuspecting faithful? Did i miss your letter to Paul VI just because there was no internet then? If you did write, perhaps you kept a copy and could share it with us? Overall, I’d (seriously) be interested to hear, given your concerns over the current reform, to hear how you think your concerns apply to the switch in most parishes back then from the EF to the OF. What’s sauce for the goose, eh?

    1. But Cecile, the point of the letter is ecumenism, which you don’t address. Reform isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about settling scores or getting even. I don’t buy the argument that “since they hurt people and did damage 45 years ago and you folks were in favor of it, that makes it OK for things to change now even if it hurts you.” Plus, the variance from Latin was justified, even called for, by the Roman translation document then in force. ICEL and the bishops were obeying Rome when they produced the current texts.
      The question is, how can we best go forward now? And that going forward must include, for Roman Catholics, very serious consideration of ecumenism, since the Roman Catholic Church is solemnly and irrevocably committed to ecumenism.

      1. Dom Anthony, yes, but what is ecumenism? Chucking out 19 centuries of Catholic spirituality because it’s somehow offensive to Protestants? Or inviting our separated brothers in to share the manifold riches of our ancient faith and tradition with us?

  2. As a Catholic, I think it is worth mentioning that even within the Catholic Church, the liturgical vernacular of the Latin Rite versus the Byzantine Rite is quite different. That said, I have no problem attending either one and am able to draw upon the richness of that diversity. For that matter, I can also say that I appreciate both forms of the Roman Rite… one of which I am accustomed to in English and the other in a language I don’t know well at all. Liturgical prayer (done well) is simply a joy for me in any of these contexts. I guess that means my point is that, from my perspective, linguistic differences need not be a barrier to ecumenism, though I “hear” and understand your concerns.

    I think the bigger issue is probably the fact that there is not one visible Church… not that divisions among Christians have had the unfortunate consequence of different liturgical translations (or different doctrine, for that matter). I say that with all fraternal charity. Let us not miss the forest for the trees.

    May God find a way to heal the divisions which we are utterly incapable of healing ourselves, even as we all must do what we feel is right and proper as we move forward. Right now, I believe that is precisely what the Holy Spirit is leading the Catholic Church to do. Let us all do our best to respond with open hearts to the good that may come of it, rather than focusing on the negative.

  3. It is a fact that the new translations better convey the doctrine of the original Latin texts. We Catholics have a right to be taught that doctrine. We have a right (and the duty!) to worship in a manner consistent with that doctrine. Thus, we have a right to faithful translations that convey that doctrine.

    I do not see any point whatsoever in persons of other denominations complaining that Catholics become more Catholic. Well, duh! If they are serious about ecumenism, they can change the texts as well. No-one is hindering them.

  4. Dom Anthony, to suggest that we must only move forward in step with Protestant translations because we are committed to ecumenism begs the question of what we mean by ecumenism in the field of liturgy. Respect for and dialogue with our separated brethren will encourage cooperation, but I would suggest it does not require us to put the breaks on ’til all are agreed on a common route and destination. Indeed, if the Roman and Reformed Rites are to remain true to their distinctive personalities they must have the freedom to develop text and translation independently. This no more an un-ecumenical approach than the multiplicity of Bible translations.

  5. I must say it is odd when a letter writer begins by acknowledging that he has no evidentiary basis for his central assertion, i.e. that Pope Benedict plans to “unilaterally re-work” the ICEL translation recently approved by the episcopal conferences. I was not aware of this and have been unable to find information confirming it.

    As the author of a thesis on the subject of the English-language “translation wars,” I am well aware of the many ways in which the Congregation for Divine Worship has micro-managed the English-language translation and undermined the legitimate authority of the episcopal conferences. I am also aware that, towards the end of the process, the CDW essentially dictated to the conferences that they would have to accept a CDW translation of the antiphons.

    But I was not aware that the CDW or Pope Benedict was planning additional revision of the ICEL’s translation before granting the recognitio and I would like to see some evidence for this assertion.

    More to the point, while the ecumenical concerns regarding the texts of the Ordinary raised by the author are valid, this argument was thrashed out years ago. It has nothing to do with Pope Benedict “unilaterally reworking” the texts at this point.

    I am all for offering serious criticism of the ways in which the CDW has micro-managed the English translation process. But let’s make sure we have our history and facts straight.

  6. For those who are unaware of this, it also seems worth mentioning that the 1998 translations were VERY careful not to change the people’s parts, for some of the reasons adduced above. I do agree that the willingness to jettison this value speaks ill of the project (and its product), even though at times I may prefer one or another of the new wordings!

    Second, the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam, which now guides the translation process, specifically says that similarities between Catholic and Protestant texts confuse the faithful and are to be avoided. I myself believe this to be a very ill-judged principle, and I am sure that many Catholics who have toiled in ecumenism share Dr. Westermeyer’s concern.

    Third, I have heard an argument going around to the effect that the new translations represent “ecumenism within the Catholic Church” because all the vernacular languages will now be closer to one another. I find this argument unconvincing and even offensive, I am sorry to say. Ecumenism is a serious business, and the real divisions between Catholics, Protestants and other Christians are of a whole different order than are cultural distinctions, of which language is a prominent one. Am I out of communion with French or Tagalog or Woloff speaking Catholics, simply because our translations of the Mass differ? It’s outrageous even to suggest it. Whereas the triumph represented by shared prayer texts in English across denominational lines is considerable. So, as I see it, we are throwing away a real gain in pursuit of a questionable one.

    1. Rita, et al.,

      Just to clarify — for all: where LA states, as you put it, that “similarities between Catholic and Protestant texts confuse the faithful and are to be avoided,” the document is referring to translations of biblical passages (par. 40).

      With regard to the liturgical texts themselves, LA states that an “appropriate relationship or coordination. . . is greatly to be desired. . . between any translations intended for common use in the various Rites of the Catholic Church” (par. 90). The document goes on in the next paragraph (91) to clearly state that “A similar agreement is desirable also with the particular non-Catholic Eastern Churches or with the authorities of the Protestant ecclesial communities, provided that it is not a question of a liturgical text pertaining to matters still in dispute [such as an Eucharistic Prayer].” I believe this would apply to the common texts, including the Nicene Creed, which (last time I checked) are not disputed.

  7. Whereas the triumph represented by shared prayer texts in English across denominational lines is considerable.

    What triumph? We are further from confessional unity with Protestant denominations than ever! – save for a few fringe groups like hardline Anglo-Catholics, who, it should be reminded, have a very traditional liturgical ethos and will welcome the new translations.

    1. Gideon,

      Define, please, the phrase “hardline Anglo-Catholics”.

      As an Anglo-Catholic (and pretty hardline, insofar as I reject identification of Anglicanism with Protestantism), yes, I would welcome new translations, provided that they were both more faithful to the Latin and were representative of top-notch English prose. To date, I have yet to see either.

    2. Yes, Anglo-Catholics are known for a very traditional liturgical ethos–but much depends also on which Anglo-Catholics and where.

      The majority of English Anglo-Catholics use none other than…(wait for it)…the Novus Ordo mass…

      Of course, they use it as an expression of their desire for a closer relationship with the Western Catholic Church rather than because they see it as the pinnacle of liturgical perfection, but that’s what they use nonetheless.

      1. Well, Rev. Unterseher, as you will see from my comment I used it in the sense of those of you who are seriously seeking union with Rome. With the ‘hard-line’ applied to the ‘Catholic’ rather than the ‘Anglo’ bit.

        I will agree that complete word-for-word translations are not necessarily always desirable and that some phrases could have been rendered in better English. But on the other hand the English-speaking part of the Latin Church is still a part of the Latin Church, and it is not strange that one should be able to identify it as such.

        As it happens, there will soon be a place for liturgies in beautiful Cranmerian English within the Catholic Church – the Ordinariates of faithful of Anglican tradition. It is up to you lot to come on over and carve out that place. And may I say that you are most welcome!

      2. The majority of English Anglo-Catholics use none other than…(wait for it)…the Novus Ordo mass… Of course, they use it as an expression of their desire for a closer relationship with the Western Catholic Church rather than because they see it as the pinnacle of liturgical perfection

        I know. And precisely for the reasons you mention they will accept the new translations: both because these are better suited for liturgical use and because they are quite happy to align themselves with the Western Catholic Church.

  8. I am a convert to the Catholic Church from the United Methodist church, and my family background also includes many Lutherans. I do not think using Protestant liturgical texts as a model for ecumenism is all that profitable, because while many communions may use the same words, they often explicitly mean different things. Methodist, Lutherans and Catholics all express belief in “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church” but do not agree with what this means, and this text isn’t changing. Does the identical wording help to serve or obscure clarity in ecumenical dialogue? I found that it actually forced more emphasis on the differences. How many Protestant hymnals read “one, holy, catholic* and apostolic church.” (* or Christian, catholic means universal)? This was a great confusion to me during my Methodist confirmation classes, and my church didn’t even recite the creed together at Sunday worship.

    I think more clearly translating the Latin texts and going through a widespread catechesis is a great thing! It’s not too hard! And who says all good things should be easy? I have memorized many of the texts as and adult convert, and in the process learned much about the mass and the Catholic faith. More attention to the text will only help others learn the mass anew, hopefully this time with greater understanding.

  9. Gideon, the triumph is in praying together, which does indeed have a value. Dr. Westermeyer describes it quite well in his letter, I thought. Perhaps your experience is different.

    Dan, I hate to tell you this, but you’re not a convert. Since you appreciate the Catholic vocabulary for things, you might want to take this in:

    Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, National Statutes for the Dioceses of the United States, article #2: “The term ‘convert’ should be reserved strictly for those converted from unbelief to Christian belief, and never used of those baptized Christians who are recevied into the full Communion of the Catholic Church.”

    1. Thank you for the reminder, Rita. You are correct. I am familiar with the term, but usually just go with the common usuage “convert.” I am very grateful to God for my baptism in a Lutheran church and for the Christian upbringing I received as part of a Methodist congregation.

  10. Perhaps as a Lutheran you would be interested in knowing that one of the words that is systematically left untranslated in the current translation is gratia-grace. Examples: 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Collect, Tuesday of Lent week 3-Collect, 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Collect, Holy Familiy-prayer over gifts.
    The ommission is endemic. What can be more irreplaceable than grace? Yet, by reading or hearing all of these prayers, you’d think that Catholic Church doesn’t believe in grace, that the quaint notion of God’s grace has somehow ceased to be of value in our modern world, that the importance of grace can be attributed to some strange late medieval fixation.

    Sacrosanctum Concilium 33:
    Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the Person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the Liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read “which were written for our instruction” (Rom 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His Grace.

    I sometimes feel unnourished with the current translations. Ooo! There’s that word “grace” again. Maybe it matters after all.

  11. Rita,

    I apologize for the error. I clearly failed to read the last line of the letter which contained the date. I saw the post date and assumed this was something new.

    Even with the temporal correction, though, I still take issue with the use of the term “unilaterally re-work” to describe Pope Benedict’s personal role in this process. There is certainly a lot of blame to be spread around, but I think the phrasing over-simplifies a complex process.

    As an aside, I will also say that I find the ecumenical argument for maintaining the existing texts of the Ordinary strong but not compelling in all cases. The 1974 Gloria was a weak translation and did not, in my opinion, deserve to be embedded in stone until the eschaton.

    I completely agree, though, that Liturgiam Authenticam’s argument that having the same texts in Catholic and Protestant churches is “confusing” to the faithful is completely absurd. Common texts are an important goal. But the principle should not be used to protect texts that are clearly mediocre.

    God bless,

    J.P.N.

  12. Mr. Nixon – you seem to completely dismiss the 1990’s ICEL efforts and translations that much improved the earlier 1970’s version. Like Ms. Ferrone, this current effort appears to violate any number of Vatican II initiatives – from Sanctorum Concilium, collegiality/subsidiarity; Il Vous Prevoit, ICEL principles and dedicated work which, at times, supported in depth ecumenical liturgical partnerships. One argument used to support LA and the current ICEL is the “old” argument that the late 1960’s changes were abrupt; ill-planned for, etc. But, this current change seems to only repeat those same mistakes – have we learned nothing and for what – so a more literal translation of the latin can be preserved – why? are there liturgical principles that support this?

  13. Anthony – you make a fair point. I don’t want to settle scores either – but does no one see the irony in the complaints now versus the complete lack of concern before?
    I actually understand (I think) what Bugnini was about. If Catholic inessentials were all that divided us from the Anglicans, it was our Christian duty not to let them keep us divided.
    BUT – ecumenism is a two way street – when the Anglicans brought in women priests and bishops, further unity became impossible. We may have found a solution to the problem of the validity of their apostolic succession but it’s too late now and they have chosen their path.
    So, our Christian duty calls us again – we focussed on unity to the west and, through no fault of ours, failed. Now we must look to unity with the east.
    I cannot help but feel that many who still consider unity with the Anglicans possible do so on the basis that they also believe in women priests in the Catholic Church.
    It is hard how to see how one could accept Catholic Church teaching and still think further corporate union with the Anglicans possible.

  14. By the way, I am 45, not so young, but with no memory of the Latin Mass until starting to attend it within the last few years. No more polyester for me!

  15. Bill:

    I don’t dismiss the 1998 ICEL translation at all. I think it was, in many places, a significant improvement over the Sacramentary currently in use. But, as Rita notes, the translators made a decision not to make large changes to the peoples’ parts. My point is that I don’t think the arguments for that decision are compelling in all cases.

    I also agree with you that the CDW’s actions in micro-managing the English translation process stand in tension with Sacrosanctum Concilium’s statement that the episcopal conferences were to be the primary actors in the translation process. It is clear from both the “legislative history” of this provision and its subsequent application after the Council that the decisions of the conferences were to be given very substantial deference.

    Just so my views are clear, my opinions are as follows:

    1) the 1974 translation was significantly flawed, particularly with respect to the collects;
    2) that the 1998 translation was a significant improvement but that the decision to do almost no revision of the people’s parts is hard to defend;
    3) that insistence on rigid adherence to Latin syntax and vocabulary is a mistake because it produces poor quality English;
    4) that the CDW significantly overstepped its authority with respect to the translation process.

    Hope that helps.

    1. It’s impossible fore me not to see a connection between 1 and 4.

      I have to admit that after rereadinig Lit. Auth. I don’t blame number 3 on it. I wonder if the Vox Clara commission is more the culprit. For instance, the current, “May almight God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life,” is far superior to “lead us, with our sins forgiven, to everlasting life.” Who else is going to forgive us our sins? There is a mechanism in Latin that says that the presumed agent of a passive participle is the subject of the clause. Indeed, in this example, who else can be the agent of “forgiven”? Like I said, I don’t see Lit. Auth. as the culprit. Maybe someone can show me my error.

  16. Ceile De variously wrote:
    the Bugnini Mass was sprung on an unsuspecting faithful and I actually understand (I think) what Bugnini was about.

    It really is time that we nailed “the Bugnini myth”.

    Bugnini selflessly wore himself out co-ordinating the mammoth task of revising the liturgical books. This role earned him the completely undeserved opprobrium of those who were (and continue to be) not in sympathy with post-conciliar reform.

    Far from being the architect of Satanic changes, etc, etc, he was simply the office manager for all the working groups and committees that did the actual work. And much of that work was in direct response to what bishops’ conferences around the world were clamouring for. All this is a matter of record.

    He did not “invent the new liturgy”, “introduce freemasonry” and all the other absurd things that were made up about him. He co-ordinated the work required to implement the changes that the bishops were asking for, while at the same time retaining liturgical integrity.

    I think the greatest tribute we can pay him is to acknowledge the way in which he managed to keep so many balls in the air simultaneously, while facilitating the collaboration of the world’s top liturgical scholars and pastoral liturgists. And did he get any thanks for this? No, he was ousted in a coup by those who did not like what he had achieved, and exiled to Tehran as Apostolic Nuncio, where he died, presumably of a broken heart.

    To perpetuate the libels (for that is what they are) by continuing to refer to “the Bugnini Mass” and to the man himself as if he were solely responsible for all the misfortunes of the post-Vatican II Church is academically and ethically indefensible. Please let us desist.

  17. Mr. Inwood, Mgr. Bugnini may not have had his hands into the nitty-gritty of reworking this or that text, but the Consilium undoubtedly conducted its work according to his liturgical principles and with his ‘blessing’ – or curse, one might say.

    I don’t see why it is relevant that he was a brilliant ‘facilitator’ when one looks at the banal and uninspiring product his group delivered. If he was in corporate business he would have been sacked much sooner.

  18. Mr. Inwood;

    Is the “Bugnini Myth” anything like the “myth of liturgical abuse” that you spoke of in response to another article here? Is that the tactic now in vogue…to declare as a myth whatever your detractors place in the way of your point? I certainly disagree with many of the points of view discussed here and elsewhere, but I would never claim any of them to be a “myth”. They are very real, and in many cases that is precisely the problem.

    Perhaps Bugnini wasn’t the scoundrel that many claim. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he wasn’t a scoundrel of some other sort. As we in ‘The States” know all too well, being “not guilty” is not the same as being “innocent”.

  19. One thing that would be really useful on this site is a list of links to church document that could be clicked on and open in a new window. Somehow there is a link to Liturgical Press but not to the Holy See or–perhaps more surprising–to adoremus.org.

    The isssue with Bugnini is more relevant to this thread than may be obvious. Nowhere in Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy does it say ecumenism is a principal that should guide liturgical reform. How was it that Bugnini decided to consult protestants so freely? As Cardinal Ottaviani pointed out in 1969 (a man infinitely more deserving of sympathy than Bugnini) even a protestant minister could presumably say the second Eucharistic prayer in good faith. There were also points of contact with the Orthodox in the 1962 rite that were removed by Bugnini’s consilium. Hey, where have all the subdeacons gone?

    As the Decree on Ecumenism point out, liturgy has a role to play in ecumenism, but the idea of reducing the import of the liturgy to a common denominator (e.g. second Eucharistic Prayer) was not the way to encouraging ecumenism. The document particularly bring liturgy into play with ecumenism with eastern Churches rather than protestant communities. Surely, a literal rendering of “and with your spirit” actually has positive ecumecnical import vis-a-vis the Orthodox. Our prayers have certainly not been in agreement with the official English translations of the Greek or Russian Orthodox before, and it seems to me that we are actually getting closer. For instance, in their liturgy the Greeks say, “I believe in one God…” (http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/liturgical_texts/creed.asp). Now we will too.

    I have mixed thoughts on Bugnini. I don’t doubt his good intents. The Graduale Simplex that his group put out is a good and substantial piece of work, full of love for the musical tradition of the church and an excellent response to what really was the will of the Council Fathers. I fear on the whole, however, that he was the Igor that helped to produced a Franken-liturgy that is out on the rampage.

    1. Just an aside with regard to the Creed: the conciliar version of the Niceano-Constantinopolitan creed (commonly called the Nicene Creed) — conciliar, as in Nicaea and Constantinople, respectively — begins with the Greek word pisteuomen = we believe, first person plural.

      The liturgical versions do begin in the first person singular.

      The First Ecumenical Council or ancient liturgical custom? I know that opinions are divided on this point at all levels of discussion. Personally, I prefer the former: We believe. Our world is already overcrowded with people who think that faith and religion are private (not just personal) affairs, divorced from community and free of social obligation.

      1. Or, if we all say it in one voice, as one Church, the I makes sense and the We connotes division. Not really a big thing to me, but if the Latin has it the way the Orthodox have it, why not translate it like the Latin, Greek, and Old Chruch Slavonic? We’re already being a pain by inserting that blasted Filioque; why be additionally antagonistic?

  20. “Is that the tactic now in vogue…to declare as a myth whatever your detractors place in the way of your point?”

    Or it could be that detractors come to the discussion armed with little more than conspiracy theories, personal bad experience, and subjective interpretations of what they’ve heard second- and third-hand.

    What holds up in the blogosphere as a source of outrage doesn’t always apply to the realm of scholarly discussion or parish pastoral application. It isn’t likely this site will be an echo chamber for the fringe interpretations one sees on NLM and on other sites.

    As an illustration, consider the complaint on “the banal and uninspiring product his group delivered.” What is referred to here? Translations? They were the product of language groups, not the Consilium. I thought the complaint was against the old ICEL. The actual Roman Missal in Latin itself? That’s essentially what we have today–what’s the beef there?

    The notion that Roman liturgy is in a state of collapse is a gross exaggeration perpetrated by a sliver of folks who have an axe to grind. The truth is that this “banal and uninspiring product” saved the Church, at least in the US, from a bloodier hemorrhaging of membership after Humanae Vitae. I saw in another comment that we should judge the Missal for the quantity of deserters it supposedly inspired. Does the same hold true for papal encyclicals?

  21. Todd says!

    “The notion that Roman liturgy is in a state of collapse is a gross exaggeration perpetrated by a sliver of folks who have an axe to grind.”

    And therein I think we have found the problem…

  22. I don’t know that “we” have found a problem so much as it has been pointed out that the discussion should be focused on the scholarship and merits of the liturgy, as reformed, unreformed, or ill-reformed. I always treat with grave suspicion any attempt to “pile on” the evidence by the political ploy of slandering one’s opponents. Discussing the merits of subdeacons, the last gospel, vestment finery, musical genres, and the theology behind all of it: more than fair game. That Bugnini was a freemason trojan horse–stuff like that–belongs at the gossip table in the church basement, and even then, it would still be sinful.

  23. Mr. Flowerday, the 1969/2002 Roman Missal in Latin was exactly what I was referring to. That was the “banal, uninspiring product” delivered by Bugnini’s committee. Latin is a beautiful and solemn language, but even in Latin its prayers sound trite, at least compared to the old ones.

    And, Vat II put such an enormous emphasis on the importance of Sacred Scripture, as the blogmeisters here will no doubt tell us ad nauseam. Well, where has all the Scripture gone in the Mass then?

    Judica me, Deus? (Psalm 42) Gone. Dirigatur, Domine, oratio mea? (Psam 140) Gone. Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas? (Psalm 25) Gone. Quid retribuam Domino? (Psalm 114) In principio erat Verbum? (John 1) Also gone.

    How are we really to judge a supposedly Christian liturgical committe which feels the need to purge the liturgy of Scriptural references as if they were an embarassment?

  24. I do not doubt Bugnini’s sincerity – in the interests of ecumenism, it seems he felt he was jettisoning the inessential whilst keeping the essential. If that was not in his remit, Paul VI still accepted the Novus Ordo. However, my point earlier was that ecumenism has hit a dead end not through any lack of effort on our side, but due to the unilateral introduction of women priests and, later, bishops, by the Anglicans – thereby making their rupture in apostolic succession so irremediable as to make further efforts in that direction pointless. The marriage is off, we can only try to be good neighbours now.

    Well, in that case, may be we can take back some of the inessentials which even Paul VI felt were a sacrifice to lose.

    Rather like how many in our parents’ generation gutted Victorian or craftsman houses in the 1960’s to “modernise” them, our generation is trying to restore “period features” – without trying to live in the past. We can live in a 19th century house with high speed internet and indoor plumbing but without the shag pile carpet and lava lamps.

    Authenticity rather than modernity matters now – perhaps this too will change in the future. The liturgical changes of the 1960’s did not take place in isolation and nor do the current ones. The search for authenticity is a major force in many areas of our modern life, even outside the Church.

    I am not, by the way, an opponent of the OF. Rather, of some of the abuses that so often seem to go with it. Whether OF or EF, could we all please just go with the rubrics. They are like rules of the road – we can’t all just make up our own as we go.

  25. Hi Cody,

    Re your comment, #10: Thanks for adding mention of paragraphs 90 and 91 in Liturgiam Authenticam which seem to contrast with paragraph 40, without, alas, making much of a difference. In principle, it does seem that some ecumenical coordination could take place, though it is hedged around with many qualifications.

    But, in fact, once that document appeared Catholic participation in efforts at common texts in English ceased. The newly configured ICEL does not have any presence at ELLC or CCT or anything else so far as I know. Do you know anything different? I am not aware of any consultations with the Eastern churches or even the Eastern rite Catholics concerning the new translation of the Roman Missal. Have there been some?

    Thus I am afraid that the principle expressed in paragraph 40 strikes the dominant note. It’s a sad situation.

    BTW, I must admit that it continues to puzzle me how common translations of the scriptures among Christians could “cause confusion” for the Catholic faithful. We’ve seen such excellent cooperation in biblical studies, it seems to me, across denominational lines–now for more than a generation. I would think the points of disagreement are quite small and that more confusion would be caused overall by introducing the New Vulgate, as Liturgiam Authenticam recommends. Perhaps some biblical scholars who read this blog would care to comment.

    1. Alas, Rita, too true, too true. Paragraph 40 cast a long shadow over the common texts project, and as far as I know, the beta-version of ICEL has withdrawn from CCT and ELLC.

      Truth be told, there were little tweaks and fudges on all sides: the common text of the Lord’s Prayer was not adopted for the Roman Liturgy — except, most peculiarly, the doxology; Episcopalians has little variations in the Creed (“of one being with the Father”), etc. They were minor differences, and by no means hindrances to common prayer and shared resources. The forthcoming translations of MR are creating a huge headache for music publishers, who have to decide which translations to include (or both) to keep everyone happy. Even OCP and GIA, who are committed to bringing out editions of their various resources with the new translations, stand to lose customers from other denominational bodies, who have no apparent intention of changing the assembly’s responses — and who have never been afraid to continue shaping the presidential prayers according to need. There’s a lesson in that somewhere, for someone…

      Sadly, the whole project represents an ecclesiology that is far removed from Vatican II’s two constitutions on the Church: in a sense, it’s a backpeddling on the gaps that were left in the Constitution on the Liturgy. Had that document been last, rather than first, the post-Conciliar liturgy would have been very different both from its predecessor and from what actually came about — and the present predicament unlikely indeed.

  26. The Mass was in Greek until the 4th Century…why are we not translating from the Greek? Why are we translating word by word, which gives us a bunch of words? Why do we need to have bad English grammar in order to have “sacredness”? Why does the hierarchy always worry about giving “scandal” to their “little flock”? We’re educated…that’s why we appreciate good English grammar!!

  27. Be careful with the “we’re educated” comments. Many are using the argument that we are not educated enough for the new translation.

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