Robert Mickens of The Tablet has written an excellent 3-part series (available only to subscribers) on the missal translation saga – “Unlocking the door of the vernacular” (June 18), “How Rome moved the goal posts” (June 25), and “A war of words” (July 2).
On the distasteful political machinations behind the new missal text, retired or near-retired bishops obviously feel freer to speak than bishops expecting to remain some time in office. Two such bishops have written in to The Tablet: Archbishop Carroll, former archbishop of Canberra, Australia, and Bishop Cullinane, bishop of Palmerston North, New Zealand, who has been given a coadjutor and will step down in November. These bishops give us inside info on the 2001 Vatican instruction Liturgiam authenticam (on which, see Peter Jeffery) and the process for translating liturgical texts.
Pray Tell applauds the bishops for their honesty. Their letters are below. – awr
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In the third part of Robert Mickens’ account of how the new translation of the Missal came to be adopted (“A war of words,” July 2), he mentions the 2002 meeting of the presidents of episcopal conferences of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) with Cardinal Arinze in which “they acquiesced in the Congregation for Divine Worship’s claim that the Holy See alone had the right to create mixed commissions” and “Not a single bishop raised his voice in protest.” While it’s water under the bridge now, it may be of historical interest that it wasn’t as simple as that, at least in my memory.
The meeting comprised, besides the conference presidents, a considerable number of the Congregation with their president together with some of the Vox Clara members and some ICEL members, including Fr. Harbert. A preliminary agenda had been sent to participants beforehand and it contained an item that would allow for discussion of Liturgiam Authenticam and its statutes. Arriving at the meeting, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Napier of South Africa, Bishop Cullinane of New Zealand and myself from Australia noticed that the agenda item had been deleted from the revised meeting agenda, presumably because in the meantime the Holy Father had signed off on the statutes. We expressed our disquiet to Cardinal Arinze and he restored it to the meeting agenda.
When this agenda item came around, we three presidents voiced our concerns and in particular about the Holy See’s right to approve the statutes contrary to Sacrosanctum Concilium. After we spoke, Cardinal Arinze called a canon lawyer presumably from the Congregation to respond to our concerns.
We did not believe that he had in fact refuted our arguments but there was no further discussion. Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor thanked us for airing the matter and the meeting moved on. It was apparent that the fact that the Holy Father had approved the statutes, including the offending one, had closed the question, one might say definitively.
The Most Rev. Francis P. Carroll
Emeritus Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia
The Tablet, July 16
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Your Rome correspondent, Robert Mickens, is incorrect in saying (“A war of words,” July 2) that “not a single bishop raised his voice in protest” at the Congregation for Divine Worship’s (CDW) claims regarding mixed commissions. Those claims were the subject of a submission to the Pontifical Council for the Authentic Interpretation of Legislative Texts by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In its reply, on December 18, 2002, the Pontifical Council declined to adjudicate the questions put to it, on the grounds that the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam was not a legislative text. This means, of course, that it lacks binding force if it conflicts with existing church law. And the question of its compatibility with current law, and legitimate custom, was precisely the point of our submission.
The Pontifical Council hoped that the issues could be resolved through “mutual collaboration … in a spirit of true ecclesial communion.” They probably didn’t know that for over two years the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) bishops had unsuccessfully tried to meet with the Congregation to discuss these issues.
Furthermore, in October 2003, the presidents of the English-speaking conferences met in Rome at the invitation of the cardinal prefect for the purposes of facilitating “understanding and cooperation between the CDW and the bishops’ conferences.”
The first item on the agenda sent out before the meeting was “the respective roles and areas of competence of the Congregation and the bishops’ conferences.” But when we arrived at the meeting, this item – the very reason for our going to the meeting – had disappeared from the agenda. At the urging of Cardinal W. Napier (South Africa), Archbishop F. Carroll (Australia) and myself (New Zealand), it was restored to the agenda. But what was the point? A decree dated September 15, 2003 and published days before the meeting establishing ICEL as a mixed commission entirely preempted any meaningful discussion on whether it is the CDW that establishes mixed commissions or the bishops’ conferences.
So it is not really true that we “acquiesced” in the actions of the Congregation. Rather, recognizing the impossibility of genuine dialogue on this matter, we made our point and then got on with the rest of the agenda. This piece of history needs to be on record because it is still incumbent on bishops’ conferences to reclaim the rights and responsibilities entrusted to them by law, and wrongly usurped.
The Rt Rev. P.J. Cullinane
Bishop of Palmerston North, New Zealand
The Tablet, July 30