Fr. Charles Bouchard, OP, past president of Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, has resigned from the board of the Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University in protest of the forthcoming missal translation. Pray Tell spoke to him about his decision.
* * * * *
Why did you resign from the board of the Center for Liturgy?
I greatly admire the work that the Center for Liturgy does, especially in the area of liturgy and homily resources. However, when education and promotion of the new missal became a central strategic priority, I told them I had to leave the board because I did not feel in good conscience I could promote something I thought was a mistake.
What are your objections to the forthcoming missal?
My objections are on several levels. The first is governance. This new translation is being imposed on us without adequate consultation and without apparent respect for the needs and cultural sensitivities of the American church. Changes in the liturgy should strengthen worship, reverence, understanding and participation. I can’t see that the new missal is designed to do any of these things. Why is the American church not being allowed the same freedom with its texts that other language groups have been allowed?
I also object because there are many serious problems with our liturgy: poor music, inadequate participation by the faithful, bad preaching. Why are these issues not addressed with the same determination that was behind the missal revision?
Finally, I object to the translation itself. Complaints about words such as “consubstantial” and the replacement of “for you and for all” with “for you and for many” are familiar. But the bigger picture is that there is a lack of appreciation for the beauty inherent in our own language. I have heard that the main reason for the new missal is to provide an English-language editio typica. This is perhaps understandable, but do we have to sacrifice the beauty of our own language to get there?
Why not commission a new version that is faithful to the editio typica, but yet produced by the top theologians and poets? In my experience the best preaching is rooted in metaphors that present the mysteries of the faith in a new light – helping us to grasp them just a bit more fully. Could we not also avail ourselves of this fresh metaphorical language in our liturgical texts as well? Can we not preserve doctrine and metaphor?
Words matter – and not just because they enforce doctrine. They also incite the imagination and enable the gifts of the Holy Spirit to deepen our grasp of God’s presence in our lives.
Do you think there will be much resistance to the new missal in the larger church?
I don’t think so. Unfortunately, most priests are too busy to protest, and most parishioners are used to the liturgical bar being so low that they probably won’t know or care. I do think that its introduction will cause confusion, especially since many Catholics never understood why we made the last round of liturgical changes.
What do you think our bishops should do? What would a successful missal revision look like?
I think it is too late to do anything now. The new missal is a done deal. But if we were to revise the missal, it would be a thing of exceptional literary, musical and artistic beauty. I wish the bishops would speak more forcefully to Rome about the needs and vitality of the American Church – a church that is arguably still one of the most observant and faithful in the world. I also wish they would strengthen liturgical music and preaching.
My biggest concern is about the loss of a coherent and effective teaching voice by the U.S. bishops. In my most cynical moments, I think that the Vatican has silenced them as a conference in order to “divide and conquer.”
Fr. Charles Bouchard, OP, is a Dominican priest ordained in 1979. He served as a campus minister and instructor at Dominican University in River Forest before pursuing doctoral studies at the Catholic University of America. He served as faculty member (1986-2008) and then as president of Aquinas Institute of Theology (1989-2008). While at Aquinas, he began the country’s only Catholic doctoral program in preaching, D.Min. and encouraged the development of doctoral seminar titled “The Liturgical Context of Preaching.”