Association of US Catholic Priests calls for reexamination of liturgical translation

The newly-founded Association of U.S. Catholic Priests has called upon the U.S. bishops to address with Roman authorities the problematic prescriptions of the 2001 Vatican document Liturgiam authenticam which brought about the new English Roman Missal.

The AUSCP, which has a membership of over 600 priests, met for the first time this past June in Tampa, Florida. The body also passed resolutions supporting the Leadership Council of Women Religious and giving them financial support during this time of Vatican-imposed restructuring, supporting the Catholic Theological Society of America and theologians condemned by the Vatican, and networking with associations of Catholic priests in other countries.

The resolution on the new English missal asserts that it has “caused disharmony, disruption and discord among many… frustrating rather than inspiring the Eucharistic prayer experience of the Christian faithful, thus leading to less piety and to less ‘full, active and conscious participation’,” and that it “has created pastoral problems, in particular because of its cumbersome style, arcane vocabulary, grammatical anomalies, and confusing syntax.”

The resolution on the new missal is carefully worded to justify, based on canon law, the right and duty of the new organization to express its opionions for the good of the church. In a sign of the desire of the AUSCP to work respectfully and constructively with bishops, the resolution on the missal was sent first to Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, before being issued publicly. The full text of the missal resolution is below.

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The New Roman Missal

  • Whereas Canon 278§1 asserts: “Secular clerics have the right to associate with others to pursue purposes in keeping with the clerical state”; and
  • Whereas Canon 298§1 includes clerics among the Christian faithful; and
  • Whereas Canon 212§3 states: “According to the knowledge, competence and prestige which they possess, they [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons”; and
  • Whereas Canon 215 declares: “The Christian faithful are at liberty freely to found and direct associations for purposes of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world and to hold meetings for the common pursuit of these purposes”; and
  • Whereas Canon 218 affirms: “Those engaged in the sacred disciplines have a just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion prudently on those matters in which they possess expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church”; and
  • Whereas Bishops are guaranteed collegial powers and responsibilities documented  in the Vatican II Decree, Christus Dominus, [especially in ¶s 2 through 6], thereby preserving the integrity of their Apostolic Office.  A reference from ¶2 points out: “Bishops, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, pontiffs, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them”; and
  • Whereas the Missale Romanum, Editio Typica Tertia [herein, New Roman Missal] has caused disharmony, disruption and discord among many, for both laity [including religious non-clerical men and women], and for clerics, in our Church, frustrating rather than inspiring the Eucharistic prayer experience of the Christian faithful, thus leading to less piety and to less “full, active and conscious participation” in the Mass, [cf. Canons 898 and 899 §s 2 and 3 and Vatican II Constitution, Sacrosanctum Concilium, ¶11 and 14]; and
  • Whereas the New Roman Missal, as we have experienced it in our day to day celebrations of the Eucharist with the faithful, has created pastoral problems, in particular because of its cumbersome style, arcane vocabulary, grammatical anomalies, and confusing syntax;

Be it resolved that the Association of United States Catholic Priests urge our Bishops, who are also our Pastors, to exercise their collegial powers and responsibilities by addressing in a collegial way, with the appropriate Vatican authorities, the problematic prescriptions of Liturgiam authenticam which brought about the New Roman Missal.

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29 comments

    1. @George Lynch – comment #1:
      What a wonderfully embarrassing episode. So much for the happy talk calling for the docility of the clergy and pew dwellers bishop Serratelli, cardinal Pell, Monsignor Wadsworth, et al were force-feeding us in anticipation of the MR3’s implementation.

      When bishops finally get the nerve to speak out, you’ll know this disaster of a missal is heading for the trash bin, and very soon.

  1. Fr Ruff, why so shy about your keynote address? (See bottom of this page)

    I also notice (from the same page) that Archbishop Rembert Weakland was there. The AUSCP certainly keeps some interesting company.

    As for the resolution that the new translation has led to less active participation in the Mass… well, that may be the experience among the rather small group of like-minded people that makes up the AUSCP, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be at all difficult to gather a similar-sized group of priests who have had the opposite experience. All this proves is that some people don’t like the new translation, and some people do. Such is the case with change and newness.

    1. @Matthew Hazell – comment #2:

      I visited the site referenced by Matthew in #2 and was, I must admit, amused at the first video posted. Forgive me for saying so, but if there is indeed a need for continual liturgical reform, especially around language, could not a better tune than “Eat his body, drink his blood, sing we all a song of love..” be highlighted as another option?
      Also, am I misinterpreting the other videos on the site, or are the members of the congregation sitting around round tables during Mass?
      Perhaps I’m missing something, but if this indeed the case, it strikes me as hardly an attractive alternative to Roman vestments and cappa magnas.

      Peace.

      Fr. jpe

  2. Well I hope that some priests have gotten their voice. In the aftermath of Boston Sex Abuse Scandal, where priests opened their parishes to the people’s voice and some asked Law to retire, there was hope for a time that priests and people might be in this together.

    But as some have explained to me, they are company men and at the end of the day there is no guarantee the laity will be there to support them, and when they laity go home to their families and jobs, retribution happens.

  3. The call of the US priests to the hiearchy only serves to emphasise that the issue that has dominated so much of recent discussion has not gone away.

    Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna is reportedly concerned that the Austrian priest’s initiative Call to Disobedience might lead to schism. So should we all be, for the last thing the Church needs in our present difficulties is yet further fragmentation.

    Yet somehow within our present community of faith we must find a way to talk, to examine the issues that face us with charity and compassion.

    Recent years have shown us that a centralised authority structure is returning and the openness envisaged by the Council diminishing.

    There are serious questions that we must address and allow each other the opportunity of a voice. The emergence of groups of priests in different countries raising concerns is, in many ways, only a response to the hierarchies not having taken up those matters on behalf of their Church in Rome .

    The collegiality of Bishops has been (and is being) slowly eroded. The courage to speak out on behalf of the people, having listened to their concerns, is the duty of their pastors, both priests and bishops. Let’s do this together and not seek division but healing. That one of the nascent priest’s groups has raised the again the issue of the translation highlights once more the apparent lack of leadership from our bishops.

    W H Auden, in his poem “If I could tell you” written in October 1940, begins with these three lines.

    “Time will say nothing but I told you so,

    time only knows the price we have to pay;

    if I could tell you I would let you know”

    That, I am afraid is a neat and poignant summary of our present position.

  4. Since the implementation of the new translation, I’ve attended Mass in several different states and in several different parishes. I have not seen any difficulty with the new translation, after the first few weeks.

  5. Anthony thanks for this. The emergence of the Association of US Catholic Priests is most interesting and I also found it interesting their quoting the sections of Canon Law as justification for their right to express their opinions. It is those, or similar sections of Canon Law, that the Temple Police have been citing for decades to justify their right to submit their complaints to the Vatican as well — and the Vatican has listened.

    On the really, really big canvas I am totally pessimistic about reform of this institution and it ever getting back to the direction discerned by the majority of the world’s bishops at the Second Vatican Council. This institution today is in a state of “terminal breakdown”. The “best and brightest” were kicked out decades ago from the senior ranks or, they saw the writing on the wall, and left of their own accord/starting refusing to put themselves forward for promotion. We are dealing with forces in the human psyche in the “company men” and temple police elements as well as the ecclesiastical bullies that defy any sort of control. It literally is akin to trying to negotiate with an Islamic terrorist with 4 kilos of plastic explosive strapped to their waist and about to blow up some aeroplane or train packed with innocent civilians and who sincerely believe they hear voices in their heads telling them that God is commanding them to do what they do. It is simply i-m-p-o-s-s-i-b-l-e for any rational person to have an intelligent conversation with such individuals. They sincerely and deeply believe they alone know the voice of Almighty God or Allah.

    My sense is that we all have a responsibility to try and discern where is the Spirit in all of this? Where is God in all of this?

    Brian Coyne,
    editor & publisher
    http://www.catholica.com.au

    This comment continued in next post…

  6. My own sense is that the Spirit departed to start working on a much larger canvas again sometime during the reign of John Paul II the Grate. The actions of the Spirit are more discernable in wider society today than they are discernable within this institution. The world is not becoming some less moral place. Human civilisation at large is not in some state of “terminal breakdown”. The “Ascent of Humankind” at large continues in very positive directions. The “Spirit” has been answering these trillions of “prayers for vocations” for decades now. In Australia the Church actually does have a larger, more professionally paid, more highly educated — both generally and theologically — workforce than it has ever had in its history. Is that not “a prayer answered”? This huge workforce in this country though has had virtually zero effect in stemming the exit out of the pews. The “problem” is not lack of sufficient human resources. The “problem” is rooted down in the “pysches” of this small element who have seized control of the bridge of the Good Ship Catholicism. They are not going to let go until they have literally sunk the ship! Even when the Good Lord is frog-marching them into Hades for their brilliant thinking and stewardship I am convinced they will still be totally convinced God has shown them the corridor to Paradise and it is everybody else who is walking the gangplank to Hades.

    All of this has happened before in human institutions and even entire nations and civilisations.

    Brian Coyne,
    editor & publisher
    http://www.catholica.com.au

    This comment continued in next post…

  7. Should we all become depressed and lose all hope. I don’t think so. All the good work done at Vatican II will eventually prevail — just not in the place or form that everyone imagined. Many of the ideas have already been taken up on the wider societal canvas — and our world is becoming a better place because of it.

    Is not the essential dispute of this present stage we are going through not more of a dispute as to who has a right to the name “Catholic” or “catholic”? There is a justice issue there when some small unrepresentative minority “rob some bank” and sieze the assets and accumulated capital of generations but doesn’t today’s Gospel passage (Mark 6:7-13) point us in another direction that says “this does not matter — go out with your staff and keep walking? Let them build their golden calves, lavish temples and costumes and enjoy their first class flights around the world like secular princes of some temporal realm.” (See our discussion on Catholica at http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?id=107840 .)

    Is it not time to engage our minds with more important matters than what the temple police engage theirs with? Is it not time we disengaged from this futile contest with this minority in the communion who place a premium on certitude and dogma at the expense of “eternal truth” and re-engaged with the ruah of the Spirit that has constantly blown through human civilisation since the proverbial first human emerged from the first womb or cave? Do we not have to have faith that “the Body of Christ” and “the Spirit of God” will prevail even if the Catholic Institution returns to dust like some abandoned farmhouse?

    Brian Coyne,
    editor & publisher
    http://www.catholica.com.au

    This extended comment was originally published on Catholica at,
    http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?id=107938 , where Anthony’s comment was being discussed.

  8. I always marvel at the flexibility of the English language; take the word “many”: in the new translation of the Missal it refers to a great host of people, whereas in the article above it means a small minority of the faithful.

  9. Dwayne Bartles : Yikes, Rembert Weakland?! Has he really so little shame?

    If you knew just a tiny fraction of Abp Weakland’s work for the Church behind the scenes when he was Abbot Primate, particularly in the breaking-down of the Iron Curtain and the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe, you might be a little slower to rush to judgement.

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #14:
      Thank you, Paul Inwood. Archbishop Weakland is a sinner like us all, and like us all, he has the opportunity to be forgiven. He publicly atoned for his wrong-doing–which involved an indiscretion with another adult and some tenuous financial decisions–unlike the vast majority of those bishops who enabled the rape of children and have yet to admit it, or the increasing number of church officials, clerical and lay, who are being caught embezzling huge sums of the church’s money. The arrogant dismissal of the Archbishop is appalling, irrational, and lacking in charity.

  10. I’m still thinking about joining the group.

    Worried that the likelihood of reprisals may outweigh the potential benefits of joining.

  11. Fr Jim’s comment is sad but realistic. We should not be afraid of expressing opinions, fearful of consequences. That is precisely our problem at present, too many issues are regarded as off limits. Docility in the face of difficulty is no longer an option. We must have the courage to speak out if we sincerely hold an opinion for the sake of the Christian family to which we belong. Having said that as a layman I fully understand and sympathise with the position that Fr. Jim (and I am sure many other priests) find themselves in. They need our support and prayers.

    1. @Chris McDonnell – comment #16:
      Well part of the problem is if a well-adjusted and properly formed pastor is removed due to belonging to this group, what kind of pastor is he likely to be replaced by?

  12. Fr Jim,
    A friend of mine faced that issue back in 68 when Humanae Vitae was published. He stayed as he said “for the sake of the people” And of course, the more who join, the greater the difficulty for the hierarchy in finding replacements. That still doesn’t make the individual decision any the easier. Keep truckin’ Jim

  13. While I do not wish to derail the main thread of this conversation, I cannot allow the snide comments about Archbishop Weakland to go without response. Here was one bishop who, whatever his other faults, actually made listening to the people priority in his decision-making. I, for one, am glad to see that he is part of this effort. His counsel and experience are likely invaluable to this group. We need more bishops who listen to the people and resist the current curial climate the way he tried to do.

  14. I looked at the video of the liturgy and was surprised to see that the directives of RS #128 were ignored. Didn’t see a single cleric in choir dress.

  15. Archbishop Weakland has been enduring the humiliating penance of having his all too human sins of the flesh exposed for all to see. Some, of course, are scolds who wag their heads back and forth and quote the Sacred Writ which promises the worst to shepherds who go astray. His sin cost his diocese nearly half a million dollars in cover-up money. Contrast that with the hundreds of millions of dollars paid out by a certain west coast prelate who was able to retire with dignity and honor. The life of the former archbishop of Milwaukee and Abbot Primate has been rich, full, and eventful. His musical tastes and liturgical grace were nothing less than equisite.

    1. @Dylan Barker – comment #25:
      You may be right about the average age, but it occurs to me that the priests who are closer to retirement may be the ones who worry less about “reprisals” and have the resources to attend a conference. The real question is what renewed energy they bring back to their dioceses and what conversations they have with younger confreres who may well be struggling with the same issues.

  16. Dwayne Bartles : Yikes, Rembert Weakland?! Has he really so little shame?

    You hit the head of the nail. Maybe there is really nothing to be shameful about with what he is doing right now. He may have done something shameful in the past, but the past is past and should not hinder us to do what is good and right. Perhaps we should be the one to have that little shame for putting people in the box and not letting them to get over with what they have been already sorry for a long time.

  17. Then Archbishop Weakland’s handling of sexual abuses in his archdiocese has not been stellar either. It’s very telling who gets defended on this… for lack of a better, more polite word… blog, and who gets trashed.

    Now, somewhere on this blog, someone wrote about charity. Apparently, charity only for those who agree with you.

    While the new Association can say what they want, I wonder if they have also submitted evidence? Otherwise, it is merely opinions for which we can always find counter-opinions. This is a recipe for greater polarisation within the Church, and I don’t see the hand of the Spirit in this.

  18. Simon Ho : While the new Association can say what they want, I wonder if they have also submitted evidence? Otherwise, it is merely opinions for which we can always find counter-opinions. This is a recipe for greater polarisation within the Church, and I don’t see the hand of the Spirit in this.

    So Brother, what do you suggest?

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