Each Catholic Bishop at the head of a diocese in the English-speaking world has a challenging task ahead of him: implementing the new English missal. However much he supports the project, he can hardly be looking forward to carrying it out.

Each bishop must be asking himself: how much will my life be complicated by the new missal? What is the best I can hope for?

Perhaps only a very few priests in his diocese will take early retirement because of the new missal. Each of these priests serves perhaps one, or two, or three parishes. How will the Bishop staff those parishes?

Perhaps not too many priests in his diocese will continue to use the current sacramentary. Will the Bishop be able to dissuade these priests? Or will he suspend them from priestly ministry? How would the Bishop replace the suspended priests?

Perhaps only a few priests in his diocese will, from the experience of difficulties in proclaiming the new texts, ask the Bishop to return to the current sacramentary. What will the Bishop say to them?

Perhaps only a few of the faithful will intentionally seek out parishes and communities retaining the current sacramentary. (Will there be advertisements for ‘Mass in normal English’?) The Bishop will hope that none of the faithful voice their objection to the new translation by shouting out the well-known old responses at Mass. How will the Bishop respond to whatever objections the faithful raise? Will it be helpful to appeal to the authority of the Pope in the light of the recent scandals?

Is the Bishop prepared to live with divisions and parallel rites for many years, until he has enough younger, more conservative priests to staff his entire diocese?

Surely the Bishop hopes for a smooth transition. How worried should he be by the rebellion of English-speaking Catholics in South Africa against the new Order of Mass? How worried should he be by the recent decision of the German-language Bishops to withdraw the newly-translated Order of Christian Funerals already in its first three months? Is the Bishop prepared to advocate withdrawing the new English missal if it turns out to be, as the German-speaking Bishops described their new rituale, ‘a failure’?

It seems likely that even the best-case scenario will involve disagreement, rancor, hurt feelings, frustration, and anger. The Bishop will hope that this not last too long, and that peace and unity return in not too many months and years.

But the worst-case scenario could involve…

Let us pray for the Catholic Bishops.

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