Priest resigns from board over new missal translation

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.

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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.”

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44 comments

  1. ”…American Church – a church that is arguably still one of the most observant and faithful in the world. ”

    That does not square with my perception of reality.

    1. Richard has a point and the quoted comment might just reflect Fr. Bouchard’s “reality”. Other countries that may be even more observant include: Croatia, East Timor, Poland, Burundi, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, Paraguay ……

      1. Well, Poland alone has somewhere north of 30 million Catholics. Paraguay is probably another five million.

      2. Well Bill, now you’ve changed the conversation. The issue was “observance” not numbers.

  2. “I also object because there are many serious problems with our liturgy.”

    Agreed. The New Missal is a distraction from real improvement of the liturgy both for liberals and traditionalists. It is going to waste a lot of time and energy for very little difference.

    “most parishioners are used to the liturgical bar being so low that they probably won’t know or care”

    Agreed. The Vibrant Parish Life study has documented that people rate the liturgy as being mediocre, that is half way down the list of things that are well done. The New Missal is just going to be more mediocrity, for many people not noticeably different from the current mediocrity.

  3. Richard,

    Please explain what your preception of reality as pertains to the American Church. I am not trying to pick an arguement, in fact I’ll probably agree with you on most of your points.

  4. It was wonderful to have Charlie on our board, though it was not his objection to any of our activities that took him away, at least according to his communication to us, it was that he has become too busy traveling. As far as Charlie’s statement that “education and promotion of the new missal became a central strategic priority” for the Center for Liturgy, someone would have to show me in what way this is true. We have a page of frequently asked questions on our Sunday Web Site, but that hardly strikes me as a central priority. We at the Center love Charlie, but feel he is overstepping just a bit on this one.

  5. While the American church might be observant and faithful, most American’s take what Rome and most bishops say with a grain of salt. They love their church but know on many issues, the heirarchy is out of touch with reality. Old men obsessed about sexual issues who themselves are either conflicted or not evolved sexually continue to erode trust and foster a sense that the official church is in touch with reality. While some of revisions are good, the New Missal will not foster better liturgy, or really address the serious issues the church faces going forward. Something about Nero fiddling while Rome burns?

    1. Grain of salt? I’ve found myself using the whole shaker of late, and a good number of my Catholic associates do the same.

      Father Anthony nails it when he identifies the biggest problem as a lack of transparency – on a whole raft of issues, not just the translation fisaco. The cognitive dissonance is getting harder and harder to take.

    2. I think he’s just talking about this in terms of sheer numbers and financial support. And when you say “most American’s (sic) take what Rome and most bishops say with a grain of salt”, do you mean American Catholics, or just Americans at large. I would also be cautious about implying that most American Catholics hold the views that you then attribute to them….that’s a broad assumption to make without some kind of real data to back it up. I’ve seen “polls” and some research done along these lines, but they have often included non-practicing and fallen away Catholics in the same group as those who practice the faith regularly, which tends to skew the results in favor of an anti-hierarchy view.

  6. The bar is set so low and priests are so busy that the new translation will be accepted as business as usual. How dispiriting!

    1. Joe;

      I think he is simply saying that in the day to day workings at a parish, this is not a huge change. Given that we frequently introduce new music with new texts, new readings with new texts, and switch between Eucharistic Prayers, orations and other optional texts frequently, the sense that there is going to be be some very noticeable change is going to be quite minimized. In particular, the new texts for the assembly that will be sung are simply different lyrics to the songs they sing. At our most recent Diocesan workshop, we sang through the new Gloria and several participants didn’t even notice it was the new text until we pointed it out afterwards. Such is the reality…

      1. I think the new eucharistic prayers are quite unprayable, especially the Roman Canon. If the people realize that the priest is mouthing stuff that he cannot pray, that would make a considerable difference to current experience. Or put it like this: currently there is one part of the liturgy that is pretty useless for the purposes of prayer, namely, the collects, secrets, and postcommunions — we should have been using the 1998 translations of these for the last 13 years. Now the entire text of the mass will have the same dispiriting sawdust quality. If people don’t notice this, it must mean that their present experience is totally void, and that the bar has been set very low indeed.

  7. So, what can we expect?

    My take is as follows: The more orthodox thinking Roman Catholics will opt for Latin. The loosie-goosie liturgists will think of something else to do, they always have. The corrupted cultural trend in worship cannot be reversed with the new translation. I say this because I believe the basic solution to our contemporary problems of community worship is found in living the true Faith not in better vocabulary or better literature.

    1. The more orthodox thinking Roman Catholics will opt for Latin.

      You know, I hate the phrase “thinking Catholics” when my liberal friends use it, and I don’t like it any better when the soi disant orthodox use it.

      1. (I think he meant orthodox-thinking, if that helps. But I happen to think the idea of a vernacular translation designed to frustrate people into using Latin is a blatant and heinous repudiation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I will not be a member of the “you can always use Latin” contingent.)

      2. “you can always use Latin” or as it is usually stated in the Catholic blogosphere: JUST. USE. LATIN. is the refuge of those who, having built a whole industry around criticizing the “lame-duck” ICEL translation, now find themselves facing the arrival of an officially-approved-replacement translation that, as Pray Tell (vox clamantis in deserto) has DOCUMENTED with facts and footnotes, is also – thank you, VOX CLARA – a mess. And these diehard loyalists don’t know what to say about this VOX CLARA Mess without offending the clientele they’ve built up by critiquing the OLDER unfaithful translation! It’s really amusing to watch the self-defined orthodox/conservative Catholic blogosphere turning themselves into an ecclesial version of the MainStream Media, parroting the Party Line, propping up “the Regime” etc! 🙂

        My guess is that it’s going to get even more amusing after the Missal is out and being used a while and the first publications come out critiquing and analyzing the Vox Clara production line-by-gruesome-line. For such publications are, indeed, in the offing . . .

    2. Imagine the disaster when the newly assigned pastor dedicated to the more orthodox thinking arrives at a parish set in its loosie-goosie ways! It’s one path to a smaller, purer church, but I don’t think it’s a path we should be on!

      In many respects, I think the argument over liturgy is a proxy for deeper arguments about the meaning of our faith and how we should live it. I looked over the offerings at one site which self advertises as the premier source for orthodox comment, and discovered that it was also offering interpretations of Catholic teachings repudiated at Trent! It raises the question of who the orthodox thinking and the “loosie-goosie” really are!

  8. This interview sounds a bit “unwilling”, and Fr. Foley’s comments back up that initial impression. It sounds as though the interview (and interviewer) are trying to draw Fr. Bouchard into supporting a point of view that he doesn’t necessarily hold. He is saying that there are so many OTHER parts of the liturgy that need serious reform (which it would seem might be in a direction not necessarily supported by this blog) that to put so much energy into mandating a new translation is a misplaced priority. Where is the mandate to address the “poor music” and “bad preaching”? There were very definite directions given for both of these in Sacramentum Caritatis, and yet there has been no priority given to these issues. This seems to be what Fr. Bouchard is saying… but he doesn’t seem to say that this is why he is resigning, only that he sees it as a shortcoming of the Board.

    After three Diocesan-wide workshops on the new translation, introducing the new texts to more than 150 of our musicians and Directors, I have to agree with his one comment though:

    Q: Do you think there will be much resistance to the new missal in the larger church?

    A: I don’t think so.

    Well…that was blunt.

    1. …”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.”

  9. Helping to clarify Jeffrey Herbert question regarding who those Catholics are that “takes what Rome says with a grain of salt”, I was referring to American Catholics and I’m not referring to folks who have left their faith. You don’t need polls to see the trends where Catholics believe in the death penalty, engage in birth control, use condoms, get divorced, eat meat on Fridays and rarely if ever go to confession and engage in pre marital sex and don’t care what people do, gay or straight in the privacy of their own homes. Yes, there are still those pius few who leave their brains at the front door but there are many faithful Catholics who love their church, love God and hold dear the traditions of the Catholic church but have lost confidence and trust with much of the leadership in the church and know that the the leadership only represents a very very small percentage of the church.

    1. Kim,

      Our people are more capable of good Christian living than your post would imply. Lack of observance in most any area of the Christian life has more to do with ineffective preaching and poor example than anything else. When is the last term you heard a challenging sermon during a regular Sunday Mass on a) the sinfulness of artificial birth control, b. the dangers of adulterous unions, c. the immorality of homosexual activity, d. the fact that we are technically supposed to abstain from meat, even outside of Lent, unless we’ve adopted some other kind of penance on Fridays? If you’ve not heard a priest preach on these issues recently many others probably have not either. It goes back to the pastoral decisions of the 1980’s – but we’re getting past all that Deo gratias. It is not a question of the “thinking” Catholics who ignore Roman teaching – it is really un-catechized Christians who await good pastoral ministry and real evangelization. The real “few” you refer to are not the pious who observe the practices of our faith but may instead be those few who strive to keep the people un-catechized and unevagelized because they, themselves, dissent from Church teaching.

      1. I doubt, Daniel McKernan, whether God is as fixated on sex and sexuality as your post seems to indicate you are.

  10. So Fr Charles Bouchard OP has gone on his travels. Perhaps that will leave more space in the Dominican order for younger and more orthodox people. That has happened in England, and hopefully it will happen in America.

    1. What do you mean by “more orthodox” ? I hope you’re not suggesting anything heretical in Fr. Bouchard’s position – that would be a very serious charge. I see no evidence that he is not orthodox.
      awr

      1. But, Father, don’t you understand that when consequentialist ethics are put in the service of orthodoxy, it’s OK?

      2. Fr. Anthony,
        I am new to this site. It seems that there are a few who seem to evaluate others’ comments always through the eyes of their idea of correct doctrine. If we really believe Lex Orandi Lex Credendi then orthodoxy follows doxology-and not the other way around. Fr. Bouchard is a good and faithful priest. I am not a fan of the new translation. But I do hope that it leads us all to a greater Lex Vivendi!

    2. It is also an ageist comment and fits well with the sneering tone. Funny how people prone to such scornful remarks have a liking for orthodoxy.

      1. Not quite Gerard, which “party” in the Church gets labeled with terms like “fundamentalist” on this blog. How often do we see traditional Catholics liturgical tastes lampooned with comments that read like something from 19th c. Protestant polemics (the cappa). More recently, perhaps you missed comment #24 above where more traditional Catholics, those who observe our traditions, are said to “leave their brains at the door” of the parish church.

  11. What do you mean by “younger”? I hope you’re not suggesting that wisdom resides more abundantly among the young.

  12. Jeffrey P –But I happen to think the idea of a vernacular translation designed to frustrate people into using Latin is a blatant and heinous repudiation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. I will not be a member of the “you can always use Latin” contingent.)–

    Jeffrey,

    Right! but the ironic thing here is that there probably will be a small number of ‘spirit of V II’ liturgists who will go back to Latin just out of principle– because they feel the same way Father Bouchard does about the process and the end product.

    (and incidently fulfilling Paul VI’s desire that Latin not be erased from the Latin rite)

    1. The conciliar and papal desire for Latin to be retained in the Latin Rite can be (and is) met in less backhanded ways. I’m thinking of the Mass celebrated at the Hanceville shrine, for example.

  13. May I suggest another way of reading “Charlie’s” comments – tie this in to any person who is struggling with the implementation and their role. Based on your current experience, involvement in the process, etc. I respect and admire those who are going through a very personal struggle and having to make personal decisions that may impact their future/careers.

    It just feels that many of us are dismissing this, IMO?

    Respect Fr. Foley and he may have provided some clarification in terms of “Charlie” speaking for himself and the Strobe Center for Liturgy or Aquinas Institue of Theology but let’s be totally up front and transparent.

    Fr. Foley has been and may still be a member of the small CDW committee of the USCCB – in that sense, Fr. Foley has been a part of this process and needs to be careful in terms of what and who he says things about; second, Strobe Center may focus on music/preaching but this translation will impact that; finally, Fr. Foley also is accountable to St. Louis University and the Jesuits.

    So, these become very political issues that have to be weighed.

  14. Dear Bill: I wish I had a translation of your remarks above. Insofar as I can interpret them, I find they are filled with misinformation and unintelligibility. Allow me to clarify, even though I may not get the point.

    I have never been a member of “the small CDW committee of the USCCB”, since that honor is reserved for Bishops and only Bishops. As you may know, I am not a Bishop. I did, in fact, work on an advisory committee for the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (as it was called then), and we, the advisory committee, wrote the excellent document which you may read at any time, entitled “Sing to the Lord.” The Bishops made our writing their own, with suitable changes, and then published it in their name. By the way, such committees are pro tem, and are dissolved immediately after they have accomplished their purpose. Moreover, since you imagine some political implications, let me make very clear that our advisory committee had absolutely nothing to do with any element of any translation process. What in the world would make you think that it did?

    You say that the new translation will impact the Stroble Center for Liturgy’s focus on preaching and music, and I reply, of course, obviously it will. No one ever intimated that it would not. Shall we stop helping parishes and assemblies work on these important aspects of liturgy because some people do not want to have a new translation? I find that ridiculous and offensive.

    Finally, I see that you affirm my accountability to St. Louis University and to the Jesuits. Again, this statement of the obvious seems jejune and irrelevant. I am proud to be “accountable” to these important servants of the Church, and I find no correspondence whatsoever in that loyalty of mine and the statement I made about my friend Fr. Bouchard.

    Bill, I do not know you, but it would seem to me that if you are going to make comments on this blog that they should 1) make sense, and 2) have some bearing on the topic at hand. As far as I can see your remarks have neither of these qualities.

  15. Fr. Foley – thanks for the clarifications. My point (inarticulate?) was to say that there are always various motivations, sides, etc. that are revealed when someone makes a statement and there are replies to that statement.

    The original post – Bouchard’s letter. Your response helped clarify his statement but you replied from your point of view (sorry, this is open to comment). Was suggesting that your point of view was, IMO, more institutional and mentioned three areas. You clarified the first area – committee – notice I said “has been and may still” – yes, committee’s charge end with projects but some folks move to another committee or that committee assumes a new task – I don’t know but suggested that may be. You basically agree with my other two areas.

    You end: “Bill, I do not know you, but it would seem to me that if you are going to make comments on this blog that they should 1) make sense, and 2) have some bearing on the topic at hand. As far as I can see your remarks have neither of these qualities.:

    Fr. – I comment on this blog frequently. Am sure that not every comment makes clear sense; and at times I am sure that I may be off topic. Jeffrey Pinyan tells me that all the time.

    OTOH, I do think that some of my comments do make sense and have direct bearing on the topic at hand.

    Your final comments appears judgmental and defensive – sorry if my comment created that – it was not my intention….I also do not know you personally but have enjoyed your contributions and music since I was in college.

    1. Bill: Thanks for your humble letter. This time you were clear! I am afraid I still cannot figure you what you are getting at with the following:

      “Fr. Foley has been and may still be a member of the small CDW committee of the USCCB – in that sense, Fr. Foley has been a part of this process and needs to be careful in terms of what and who he says things about; second, Strobe Center may focus on music/preaching but this translation will impact that; finally, Fr. Foley also is accountable to St. Louis University and the Jesuits.”

      Are you saying that my comments may be politically motivated because I was on a USCCB committee, or because I am a Jesuit who works for Saint Louis University? I can’t find another way to read it.

  16. Daniel McKernan :
    …How often do we see traditional Catholics liturgical tastes lampooned with comments …

    I consider this comment to show progress from the right to the center in describing the position of traditional Catholics as a matter of taste.

    I would like to see both so-called traditionalists and so-called progressives on this list avoid drawing into specific discussions things they claim were done to them or by others in the past and stay on the liturgical subject at hand.

    I am urging that we recognize that we have different tastes in liturgy to which we are entitled and that ways can be found to accommodate different tastes without calling one another wrong, ignorant, or heterodox.

    Can we identify ourselves with our liturgical objectives instead of those ideological positions, as wanting awe in the liturgy or preferring experiences of community rather than being left or right, traditional or progressive? We do so much harm to our discussions here by attaching labels to others rather than staying on the point at hand and citing precedents and logic.

  17. “Can we identify ourselves with our liturgical objectives instead of those ideological positions, as wanting awe in the liturgy or preferring experiences of community rather than being left or right, traditional or progressive?”

    Generally, I agree, but with respect to “awe” and “experiences of community” , isn’t it possible to have both?

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