Notes on the Committee to Revise Liturgiam Authenticam

Last week I shared the (unconfirmed) list of members of the commission to revise Liturgiam authenticam. Presuming this list is correct, who are these people? What might one reasonably expect from them? As they say in the financial industry “Past performance is no guarantee of future yields.” Nevertheless, the background, expertise, reputation, and published work of these people can reveal much, and whet our appetite to see what will happen next.

The Task

The task of reviewing and revising Liturgiam authenticam is a formidable one. It requires wisdom, level-headed judgment, and courage. This instruction is, after all, a highly controversial document concerning one of the central liturgical issues about which people disagree—one which has implications for the experience of every person in the pew, as well as for priests and bishops.

translation graphic

Liturgiam authenticam is the fifth instruction “on the right implementation” of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (the Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium). That puts it in a line of important instructions which exist in order to interpret the Second Vatican Council’s liturgical reform authoritatively.

Yet Liturgiam authenticam interprets Vatican II at a far remove from the Council itself. Unlike the first three instructions: Inter Oecumenici (1964), Tres Abhinc Annos (1967), and Liturgicae Instaurationes (1970), Liturgiam Authenticam is commenting on the reform at a more than thirty-year distance. It also operates out of an intellectual viewpoint that is fundamentally revisionist.

The fourth instruction, which was about inculturation (Varietates Legitimae, 1994—also long after the Council), could plausibly be said to have been necessitated by the fact that few directives existed to give shape to this movement called for by the Council. But when it comes to Liturgiam authenticam, that dog won’t hunt. Translation has been with us a long time. Very definite norms were already in place. The fifth instruction (Liturgiam Authenticam, 2001), was written not to fill a void, but to change direction.

Therefore, the underlying question that will have to be dealt with in this committee — like it or not — is whether that judgment was a sound one. Of course, this group may decide to simply tweak a few of the curious and problematic rules of translation contained in the instruction. But if this is all they do, it is because their courage failed them.

What is Liturgiam authenticam, after all? It is an instruction written by a small group of people, in secret, and imposed on the church. It is not in any sense a collaborative effort or the fruit of compromise. In producing Liturgiam authenticam, nobody sat down, as they did at Vatican II, to consult. But isn’t it a papal document, you ask? John Paul II approved it, true. But clearly he approved of it when he was in his dotage. It seems abundantly clear that he was acting on the advice of his trusted Cardinals Ratzinger (then prefect of the CDF) and Medina (then prefect of the CDW). It bears John Paul’s name, but one looks in vain here for the “signature” of his own liturgical ideas, familiar to us from countless works produced by him earlier in his pontificate. What one does see in LA instead is the harsh tone which characterized the critical liturgical views of these two cardinals – views which were supported by prelates such as George Pell, Francis George, Raymond Burke, Justin Rigali, Charles Chaput, and some others. Indeed, the work of retranslating all of the liturgical books everywhere in the world according to the principles of LA has been widely considered a project dear to the heart of Benedict XVI—a concrete step in his hoped-for “reform of the reform”—rather than a task carried out by him in deference to the wishes of his predecessor.

This background makes the politics of revision a bit fraught. Francis is pope now, yet Benedict lives across the street. No one will want to suggest a rivalry between the two men, least of all Francis himself. We are in a new pontificate however, and Francis’s opinions and ways of expressing them are different from Benedict’s. To see the difference, one need only reflect on how persistently Benedict argued —over many objections—that “pro multis” must be translated literally as “for many” (not even “for the many” would do). Contrast this with Pope Francis’s resounding speech before the convention of the Italian Church (November 10, 2015, Florence) which drew sustained applause: “… [T]he Lord poured out his blood not for some, nor for few nor for many, but for all.”

One might also recall Francis’s emphasis on decentralization and the empowerment of local episcopal conferences. There is a great difference between this view, and a project designed to centralize control of liturgy along a Roman model, which is what Liturgiam authenticam sought to do. What is the alternative to centralized control? Not chaos or loss of unity, as some would have us fear. Rather, it is to foster indigenous expressions of faith and piety, responsibly governed by local bishops’ conferences. That has been the Vatican II project, which was effectively put on hold by LA.

The very fact that Francis called for a commission to review and revise (or replace) this document, thus intervening in this “pet project” of Benedict’s, is a bold step. Presented in a mild way, as one must, this has been described as a sort of routine review. But nobody with any sense should believe that. Since when are instructions on the right implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium subject to routine reviews? Never. This step can only have been taken because Francis became convinced that the project is on the rocks. By that I mean that it has not been received well and a new approach has become a pastoral necessity. How much course correction is required is unclear. And how much the commission will tiptoe around the elephant in the living room, for fear of offending Benedict, is also an open question.

One cannot emphasize too strongly however that the real task before this commission is not merely one of tweaking a few details. Liturgiam authenticam can be analyzed with respect to texts and rules of translation, but it is not only about that. It is about the nature of church, the nature of reform, and the nature of liturgy itself. That is the reason why it has aroused so much ire on the one hand, and expectations of grandeur on the other. If the review and revision confines itself to cosmetic improvements only, it will fall short of what is needed.

The People

I see two names on this list of people whose intellectual attainments, wisdom, breadth and depth of experience, and personal courage augur well for raising the deeper issues that need to be faced in this review. They are Piero Marini and Matias Augé.

Piero Marini (b. 1942) began his career as secretary to Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who more than anyone else witnessed and shepherded the process of liturgical reform both before and after the Council. Consequently Archbishop Marini knows a great deal about what went into the reform, he understands the principles that have guided it, and knows the difficulties of its implementation and especially the resistance of the Vatican bureaucracy to change [see his book: A Challenging Reform]. His subsequent work as papal master of ceremonies, his travels around the world with John Paul II in that role, and his service as president of the office of Eucharistic Congresses give him a broad and deep experience of liturgy, inculturation, reform, and renewal. He has a strong character, is a critic of Liturgiam authenticam, and will not be easily intimidated.

Matías Augé (b. 1936) is a highly respected liturgical scholar whose published bibliography includes some 261 works. A Catalan Claretian, he has lived for more than fifty years in Rome and is professor emeritus at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute Sant’ Anselmo.

He is distinguished not only by his intellectual gifts and erudition, but also by his candor concerning controversial liturgical subjects. This was evident in his courteous but challenging exchange of letters with then-cardinal Ratzinger around the proposition of “two forms of the Roman Rite” (1998-99). He also supported Pope Francis’s decision to formalize permission for including women in the washing of feet on Holy Thursday.

Involvement in this commission will also represent a return to international liturgical action for Domenico Sorrentino (b. 1948), Archbishop of Assisi. He was secretary of the CDW in 2003 but was removed from that post immediately once Benedict took office in 2005 (and replaced by the far more conservative Cardinal Ranjith).

On the other hand, the commission will also reintroduce the elderly Italian Jesuit Father Mario Lessi-Ariosto, who served at one time on the CDW, back in the 1990s. In that capacity he was part of the group that torpedoed the American lectionary, along with English Marist Anthony Ward, and Fr. Thomas Fuciniaro of the CDW and a number of others — principally out of a desire to stamp out inclusive language.

Arthur Roche (b. 1950) was formerly bishop of Leeds, and is currently secretary of the CDW. He is a power to be reckoned with in that office. Some say he now has more influence than the Prefect, and that may be so. He was a key supporter of Liturgiam authenticam, and his work with ICEL (where he was chairman from 2002 to 2012) reflects this. Although it was rumored that he had some reservations about the Missal translation and deplored the 10,000+ changes that were introduced into it, he never said a word against it, and penalized those who did. He holds a degree in Theology from the Gregorian, but it is not a liturgy degree. His “adaptability” to different political winds is well known.

Corrado Maggioni, SMM (b. 1956) is the other representative of the CDW, where he has served as undersecretary since 2014. His appointment by Pope Francis was considered a significant change of staff because he replaced Father Anthony Ward (rumored to be the author of Liturgiam authenticam) and another staffer who was also dismissed at that time. Fr. Maggioni holds a liturgy degree from Sant’ Anselmo and his expertise is in the cult of Mary. If he has any views about translation, I couldn’t find them.

Jeremy Driscoll, OSB (b. 1951) on the other hand, is a staunch supporter of LA. He is currently abbot of Mount Angel monastery in Oregon, and he taught for some years at Sant’ Anselmo, from which he holds an STD (awarded in 1990). His dissertation was on Egyptian monasticism. Although he supports the celebration of liturgy in its reformed form after Vatican II, he also supports reintroducing older forms. I think this puts him in the Reform of the Reform camp, progressive wing. It is clear that he would have been extremely happy with the literal, LA-inspired text of the English Missal. Informed Roman sources say that he did not approve of the 10,000 changes to the Missal translation, however, and thought the bishops should have refused the text.

One more tidbit came across my radar with regard to him. In a 2012 interview with Catholic News Service, he explained that although you cannot help but notice people in the liturgy [sic], liturgy is not intended to “express” the faith of believers (this assertion also appears in LA), but rather liturgy exists to “impress” them. Although it is entirely possible that a short interview does no justice to his actual thoughts on this matter, I was not impressed with the epistemology of this assertion.

Several names on the list belong to people who have been at the head of committees or commissions working to produce translations according to LA: Arthur Joseph Serratelli (b. 1944) of the Paterson New Jersey Diocese is chair of the episcopal board of ICEL, Bernard-Nicolas Jean Marie Aubertin (b. 1944) of the diocese of Tours in France is head of the commission which prepares translations for the Francophone world, Friedhelm Hoffman (b. 1942), bishop of Wuerzburg in Germany is chair of the liturgy committee charged with the Germanophone translations, and  Julián López Martín (b. 1945), bishop of Leon in Spain, was responsible for the translation of the Missal into Castilian, which came out on the first Sunday of Lent 2017.

Serratelli is known as a bishop with old-fashioned tastes in church furnishings and views on liturgy which fall somewhere on the spectrum between conservative and traditional. Rorate Caeli endorsed him as a “wonderful and holy” bishop. He holds an STD and SSL from the Gregorian University in Rome and taught scripture for twenty years at Seton Hall University. He was deeply involved with and supportive of the translation of the Roman Missal into English under LA. He was chair of the BCDW when the American bishops approved the Missal, and has a seat on Vox Clara.

Hoffman’s higher degree is in art history. As a bishop, his outstanding achievement in liturgy has been his leadership in the production of the new Gotteslob hymnal which appeared in 2013. Informed sources describe him as someone who puts out an impression of openness and promotes modern art, but is at heart a maintainer of systems. He is generally liked but it is also well known that he is approaching retirement age, and is therefore something of a lame duck. He is not likely to rock the boat. But if the boat changes course, he’ll stay on it.

Aubertin was ordained a priest for the Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers) but was professed a Cistercian in 1982. He served as prior and abbot of his monastery, and as a member of the Cistercian Generalate in Rome. He was bishop of Chartres before being appointed to the see of Tours. He studied in Switzerland (Fribourg) and holds a canon law degree from Strasbourg as well as a certificate in Islamic studies from the Pontifical Institute of Arab Studies in Rome. As president of the Francophone conference on liturgical translations he has overseen the translation of both biblical and liturgical texts. I have some hopes for him. Although he has soldiered on loyally in the LA translation project, he knows too much not to see that there are major problems here.

López Martín holds a degree in liturgy from Sant’ Anselmo (from 1975). In addition to his duties as bishop of Leon, he has served on the Liturgy commission of the Spanish Episcopal Conference from 1994 to 2010, and was elected president of that commission from 2000 to 2010, and again in 2014. He was appointed to the CDW by Pope Benedict and reappointed by Pope Francis. The roll out for the Castilian translation emphasized very strongly that almost nothing has changed, aside from the pro multis. There may be a story here (sixteen years when so few changes were needed?); I just don’t know what it is.

In addition to those already mentioned (Roche, Driscoll, and Serratelli), there are two more English-speakers on the list:

Dominic Jala (b. 1951), has a long history with ICEL. Most of it has unfolded under the new, LA-and-Vox-Clara guided regime. He has been known to raise critical questions, but he is embedded in the status quo and is unlikely to challenge it. A Salesian, he is bishop of Shilong, a large and historically important diocese in North East India (the region previously known as Assam, now Meghalaya). Meghalaya is a majority Christian state. It includes many languages and cultural groups as well as a number of educational institutions. Jala holds a liturgy degree from Sant’ Anselmo, and is chairman of the Liturgy Commission of the Conference. His big book is on liturgy and mission.

Mark Benedict Coleridge (b. 1948) also has a history with the new ICEL. He holds a doctorate in scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He spent four years working in the Vatican at the Secretariat of State, after which he returned to Australia and was ordained auxiliary bishop of Melbourne. In 2004 he became chair of the Roman Missal Editorial Committee of the International Committee for English in the Liturgy. He was subsequently named chair of the International Commission for the Preparation of an English-language Lectionary. In 2012 he was put in charge of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Many speak well of him and say he has grown in his job; others see him as a careerist. He is known as a linguist with a good feel for language.

By now you are probably wondering: Why no philologists in a commission on translation of liturgical texts? Well, wonder no more. Giovanni Maria Vian (b. 1952), is an Italian professor of patristic philology. He is also editor-in-chief of l’Osservatore Romano. At first, I wondered why they had appointed a newspaper editor to this commission. Was it to reflect on how the person in the street understands language? His background in philology, however, brought an added dimension to this choice.

Then there are the canon lawyers. Fr. Giacomo Incitti is professor of canon law at the Urbaniana in Rome. He may have been chosen because of his research in the people of God as historical subject, which his recent book (Il popolo di Dio) examines according to the constitutional principles of equality and diversity. He was appointed by Pope Francis to the Apostolic Penitentiary in 2014.

Another canon lawyer, Fr. Christoph Ohly, teaches canon law at the University of Trier. He is reputed to be young, bright, personable, hard-working, and very conservative. He may be there because he has written some pastoral books about liturgy, or to add another conservative voice to the mix.

There are a few wild cards in the group.

One is Valeria Trapani, the sole woman on the committee (and one of only two lay participants). Just guessing now, but she may have a different perspective on the issues than her clerical colleagues do. She received her doctorate in liturgy from Sant’ Anselmo in 2004. Dr. Trapani has written on euchology, active participation of women in liturgy, marriage rites, and music. She teaches on the Pontifical Faculty of St. John the Evangelist in Palermo. She was recently appointed consultor to the CDW as well as to this committee.

The other two are recently-ordained auxiliary bishops from non-Western dioceses: Jean-Pierre Kwambamba Masi (b. 1960) from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and John Bosco Chang Shin-Ho (b. 1966) from Daegu, South Korea. Their footprint on line is very light; other than the fact that Kwambamba Masi has worked on papal Masses and Shin-Ho is cautious about using iPads in place of liturgical books we just don’t know much about them. According to Cardinal Sarah, the Koreans produced a word-for-word translation of their Missal and are a model of obedience. But was Chang Shin-Ho involved? Happy? Horrified by the results? No information is available.

Concerns

After researching the backgrounds of the people on this list, I find a lot to encourage me about the coming re-evaluation and revision. It seems in many ways a group I would love to hear from, a good mix of people with differing viewpoints and backgrounds. The very conservative sites which initially published the list darkly commented on the presence of so many “liberals” in the lineup. I don’t see that at all, any more than I see a dangerous conspiracy of “conservatives” here. There will be differences of opinion in such a group, surely, but all these people fall within the mainstream. My hopes are high that they will come up with something reasonable, even if it is not all what I would like to see personally.

That said, I do have some concerns.

First, you might think that I, as an English-speaker, would be happy to see so many English-speakers on the committee. But this is actually one of the problems. Five English-speakers is too many. ICEL especially is over-represented. No other translation group has four members at the table. The assessment of LA from scholars and pastoral leaders from the English-speaking world has been astonishingly negative (just recall the roster of eminent persons who signed the petition What If We Just Said Wait? or reread Peter Jeffery’s Translating Tradition). Seventy-five percent of US priests surveyed two years after implementation said the language of the Missal translation was “awkward and distracting” and 50 percent agreed that a revision was “urgently needed.” Will these awkward but relevant facts be placed squarely on the table and reckoned with candidly? Or will they be played down and “explained away” in order to save face?

Second, quite a few people on the committee know Latin; some know Latin very well indeed. But there is not a single expert here in the science of translation. This kind of lacuna allows things to happen such as Archbishop Roche repeatedly saying that dynamic equivalence had become “outmoded” — which sounds plausible but actually is not quite true. Will committee members brush up on their general knowledge of translation theory and practice? Of course one hopes they will. But this is different from deep knowledge. And I especially fear that the ones who have done the most translation work under LA (i.e. the English-speakers) will presume to already know everything they need to know about it.

Third, there are a number of people on the commission with liturgy degrees. This is good. Yet these degrees all come from a single university. Sant’ Anselmo is a very fine institution. But every institution has its own particular character and limits. The Sant’ Anselmo influence is likely to result in an emphasis on reading and understanding historical texts. This is important — no question. But it’s not everything.

This brings me to one final concern. There is really no one on this commission who has a track record of deep study in the area of liturgical inculturation. In the absence of this sort of expertise, it will be difficult to not fall into a Rome-centered worldview and its attendant liturgical assumptions (as Liturgiam authenticam arguably does). In a church which has called the translation of liturgical texts into the vernacular “the first significant measure of inculturation” (Varietates legitimae, 53), it seems that one cannot any longer address translation without also addressing inculturation. Yet here we are.

Conclusion

As I said before, my expectations of this review and revision are positive. But they are measured, in view of these concerns. That said, one must also leave room for the Holy Spirit. We have all known gatherings that have accomplished more and better things than anyone expected, simply because something happened when people sat down together and tried to be open to the Spirit. May this happen here.

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41 comments

  1. The Koreans produced a word-for-word translation of their Missal, commended by Cardinal Sarah as a model of obedience.

    uh, where did you get this info, Rita? Because this is just not true.

    Just to give you two prominent examples, pro multis is translated as “for all,” and et cum spiritu tuo, “and also with the priest/deacon.”

    In fact, following the implementation of the new word-for-word translation of the English missal in 2011, when the media asked if they would follow suit, the CBCK specifically said NO, and that any further revisions on the Korean missal, if and when that should happen, would be done — as has always been the case — in full consideration of our own culture and our own language.

    As for Bishop Chang, he too is a graduate of Sant’ Anselmo (obviously), and has been working as its secretary (I think) in the CBCK’s liturgy committee for some time now, so he’s definitely been involved in all things liturgy in Korea.

    So anyway, it seems Cardinal Sarah either misunderstood, or had been misled, or maybe both.

    This was, as usual, a great read — thank you. I do wish you had left out all the character assessment bits and focused instead solely on their expertise and experiences though.

    1. @Elisabeth Ahn:
      Thanks, Elizabeth. Very interesting and helpful to know. So they refused in 2011. Is it possible that there is a text in preparation that the Cardinal would know about but which is not yet approved? I am sure of my source, but there may be a misunderstanding somewhere, and if so I am happy to correct the post. [I’ve made a slight adjustment for clarity in the meantime.]

      1. @Rita Ferrone:

        Hi Rita, and thanks.

        Is it possible that there is a text in preparation that the Cardinal would know about but which is not yet approved?

        I did some poking around the internet (cause that’s all my sources 🙂 ) to see if there’s any hint about this, but have found nothing so far about the new missal translation in the works.

        But who knows, maybe it is being kept under wraps. Guess we shall just have to wait and see. Meantime, I must confess that I’m now kinda super curious to see what the Latin-Korean “word-for-word” translation might look like!

  2. Alan, this is an excellent review and I thoroughly enjoyed the read, learning much as I was doing so.

    In my native land, the UK, there have been ambivalent feelings toward Arthur Roche, but in general I have held him in esteem. There is a vibrancy in the English Church and, being much smaller than the US, lacks the venom of diversity. Feelings tend not to run deep, the arguments are generally cerebral.

    From my Australian colleagues, Brisbane is well respected, especially in contrast to the megalomania of Pell. Melbourne has always had a progressive outlook.

    Jeremy I know from of old, even before my days at Mt Angel, when be was at the San Anselmo. I regard him as being solid but ‘erring’ on the intellectual side with perhaps not the required depth of pastoral experience. But as I qualified, my connection dates ‘from of old’.

    I was given to understood that Benedict’s concerns for strengthening and re-sanctifying the Church arose from his xenophobic concerns of the increasing influence of Islam in Europe, Such views are no longer tenable.

    But with Francis, we are in an era when – sparing the accusations of heresy – even the Spirit appears to has been recharged with a pastoral urgency for a meaningful Church. And our identity is enshrined in a living Book of worship which should not revert to past glories as a means of sanctification. I am extremely optimistic that good work will come of this. After all, the major hurdle is behind us; LA is now under permissible scrutiny.

    Thank you for the study Alan, and Anthony for publishing this.

  3. Footnote: Apologies, Rita. Alan H posted it on Facebook and I assumed he had compiled the report. It pays for me to read the small print at the top of the page. In fact, you could become the new Alan!

    This was a wonderful presentation, I think the overview was very comprehensive and certainly helpful to me. I thank you for it. I look forward to subsequent updates. I have happy memories of discussions with you from the Composers Forum a couple of years back.

  4. Thanks Rita for your article. You make no reference to Comme le Prevoit of 1969 which is relevant to the translation issue?

  5. Rita

    Excellent expression of astute concerns.

    In terms of a third instruction on translation of liturgical texts, I would hope there can be significantly greater embrace of the following dimensions that appear to have been neglected:

    1. Embracing euphony and musicality in the “receiving” mother tongue.
    2. Respect for the particular genius of the “receiving” mother tongue.
    3. Aural reception of the proclaimed word is no less important than visual.
    4. The likelihood of “percolation” for frequently vs infrequently proclaimed/heard texts (to use an analogy: liturgical experience as a movie of cumulative experiences rather than as a photograph of an instantaneous comprehension) – the former being more suited to bearing a more complex, prosodic/poetic register and syntax than the latter.

  6. Rita, thanks for an excellent article. Just a minor typographical correction: Paterson, New Jersey, is spelled with only one “T”.

    1. @John Igoe:
      Thanks, John, for the spelling correction. I’ve fixed it.
      Thanks, Tony, for clearing up the question of how Alan H got mixed in here. 🙂
      Thanks all for the comments affirming the post.
      Alan Johnson, I would add: Pray!

  7. Rita, would that you were included in this group! Thanks for an excellent article, and for all the Pray Tell blog posts. We will pray, and hope (again).

  8. Therefore, the underlying question that will have to be dealt with in this committee — like it or not — is whether that judgment was a sound one. Of course, this group may decide to simply tweak a few of the curious and problematic rules of translation contained in the instruction. But if this is all they do, it is because their courage failed them.

    It could also be because they reasonably think that all it needs is a tweak and not a full overhaul. AL is controversial precisely because not everyone agrees with it, or with the critiques against it.

  9. Only two laypeople. What does that say about the Vatican’s approach to liturgy?

    The only real solution is for the Vatican to stop trying to micro-manage the liturgy and let the conferences of bishops do their job.

  10. Hello Rita, Thanks very much for this very informative listing and the surrounding observations upon each personage. I notice you do note the number of liturgical scholars listed who have degrees from San Anselmo, but I also notice the lack of anyone from either the Liturgy School in Paris or the one in Trier. Perhaps if he were still alive Abbot Patrick Regan who had his degree from Paris but who taught a number of years at San Anselmo would have made the list. Still it is a strange omission of the graduates from these two schools.

    1. @Philip Sandstrom:
      Phil, I wondered the same thing. Not sure what accounts for it. Am more inclined to suspect an academic provincialism (they know each other, and recommend each other) rather than any diminishing of the standing of the other two institutions.

  11. Hello Rita, I hope what you say is true! It certainly could be ‘academic chauvinism’ all right. But I do think it is a serious lack of possible input from the French and the Germans — and the international divisions of their former students. And of course there are people from the University of Notre Dame too.

  12. Rita, many thanks for this introduction to the committee and their backgrounds. Regarding this snippet from your section on Jeremy Driscoll, OSB:

    “In a 2012 interview with Catholic News Service, he explained that although you cannot help but notice people in the liturgy [sic], liturgy is not intended to “express” the faith of believers (this assertion also appears in LA), but rather liturgy exists to “impress” them. Although it is entirely possible that a short interview does no justice to his actual thoughts on this matter, I was not impressed with the epistemology of this assertion.”

    … I suppose Driscoll is contrasting the “ex” and “im” of “express”/”impress”, and using “impress” in the sense of “imprint”, rather than “wow the attendee by the experience”. Here is the actual quote from the interview, with a bit more surrounding context:

    “Yet a mistaken sense of separation between God and community can occur, Father Driscoll warns, if the assembly conceives of worship as self-expression — a tendency he finds especially common in his native land.

    “”We Americans,” he says, “have come naturally to think that in the liturgy we want to express ourselves, and if it doesn’t feel like us, then we don’t want to say it. But the whole tradition of liturgy is not primarily expressive of where people are and what they want to say to God. Instead, it is impressive; it forms us, and it is always bigger than any given community that celebrates.””

    My personal view is that, taken as a general proposition about worship, that statement is food for thought and discussion. As it applies to liturgical translation, I suppose it supports the notion of an elevated, sacral language that is (allegedly) more likely to make a lasting “impression” upon us, as opposed to more immediately-accessible words and phrases that may lack that ability to make that durable impression.

    1. @Jim Pauwels:
      Jim, you mistake my point. Who is it that is impressing what upon whom? The liturgy did not fall from heaven in a glad bag. It does not exist to make itself felt among us by delivering “truths that transcend time and space” as if they landed from outer space. It is incarnate. It is embodied. It is inculturated. It is the product of many faithful over time, expressing in concrete forms, words, actions, gestures, etc. the faith that we share. We are part of that living stream, we don’t receive it without participating in it and shaping it ourselves as well, even as prior generations shaped the liturgy. The problem with the oppositional language which is used in LA and in this interview is that it disguises the reality that we are all — yes, we too — part of that faith expression that is the liturgy. It easily lends itself to the false interpretation that the liturgy is the books and the forms which the clergy visit upon the people. That’s not what liturgy is. Liturgy is the worship of God. People are not “incidental” to it.

      1. @Rita Ferrone:

        “The liturgy did not fall from heaven in a glad bag. It does not exist to make itself felt among us by delivering “truths that transcend time and space” as if they landed from outer space. It is incarnate. It is embodied. It is inculturated. It is the product of many faithful over time, expressing in concrete forms, words, actions, gestures, etc. the faith that we share. We are part of that living stream, we don’t receive it without participating in it and shaping it ourselves as well, even as prior generations shaped the liturgy. ”

        Glad bag? 🙂

        If the liturgy is, to use the popular ‘urban definition’, the work of the people, then I would say that that work happens according to a prescribed ritual. Our particular ritual happens to be recorded in books and translated into vernacular languages. And while that ritual framework didn’t come from outer space, it is nevertheless a “given” -the people don’t reinvent the ritual framework all by themselves every week. The people take what is given them, from wherever it’s prescribed, and according to what is prescribed, they do all the things you name -the embody it, inculturate it, pray it, proclaim it, sing it, offer it, and so on.

        If you say that this work that the people do within this given ritual framework is, in a real sense, a reinvention, I won’t argue that point – in fact, I agree with it. But my point is that there is a given ritual that acts as a catalyst. That dynamic, that interaction between prescribed ritual and concrete embodiment is what changes us, either little by little or, perhaps, once in a while, like a bolt of lightning.

        Naturally, it is God who is really doing the imprinting here. The joining of prescribed ritual and real people with real joys, hopes, dreads, sins and so on – that’s just the particular set of circumstances he’s selected within which to do his salvific work.

      2. @Jim Pauwels:
        Hi Jim,
        What you say about not reinventing the liturgy week by week is certainly true and I totally agree. I also have no objection to your characterization of the formal aspects of liturgy. The liturgy is formative. Absolutely true. I think we both agree too that it is formative because of a creative interaction between people and rite.

        By the way, just to clarify, “work of the people” isn’t out of the urban dictionary. 🙂 It’s the literal translation of leitourgia. And I have to own up to an unattributed quotation: “the liturgy didn’t drop from heaven in a glad bag” was a favorite maxim of my mentor in liturgy, Fr. Aidan Kavanagh, OSB. He had a way with words.

        Thanks for your comments.

  13. “The work of the people” – it’s a succinct phrase, but I don’t think it’s really the definition of the word? Nor an accurate etymology? At least according to the dictionaries I’ve consulted.

    In my observation, that particular formula “the work of the people” frequently is wielded to contrast “people” with a priestly class. Perhaps that’s a necessary corrective, albeit maybe more so a generation or two ago than now. But from what I can tell, that contrast isn’t really inherent in the word itself.

    I used the term “urban dictionary”, but maybe “folk etymology” also would apply to this particular case. I think.

    FWIW, inasmuch as the notion of “public” really is inherent in the word “liturgy”, it may be good to recapture what “liturgy” really means, because we seem to be in an era now in which *public* worship is in decline, and people insist that their private belief in a divinity suffices.

  14. I’ve loved the conversation so far. I think there is a real need to continue discussion on the essence of liturgy and reform, and especially in regards to the Roman Rite. At what point does all the tinkering, that people are want to do in each congregation, change the nature of the thing? When does the sacred liturgy stop being the sacred liturgy and become a liturgy fabricated on the spot? What would constitute changes in the Roman Rite that would make it no longer the Roman Rite? Don’t we who we’re baptized in the Latin Rite have a right to receive the sacraments according to the Roman Rite? If all its Romanness is translated out or otherwise inculturated out, does it cease to be the Roman Rite? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think they might underly the tensions that we are seeing played out today.

    1. @Steve Hartley:

      Steve Hartley – it seems to me that it’s the job of those with teaching authority in the Roman Catholic church to preserve what is essential about the Roman rite. Perhaps I’m going too far in conflating the content of the rite with the deposit of faith, but there is some sort of relationship there. As Rita notes, the liturgy is formative; and if we accept the principle of lex orandi lex credendi, then we’re saying that belief and prayer are intimately linked.

      I don’t think those with authority have carte blanche to construct a ritual in whatever way strikes their fancy. For them, too, there are certain essentials of the rite that are “given”.

      I guess I’d add that translating that rite is a degree removed from what is essential to the rite. Even then, though, folks would argue that whether “multis” gets translated as “many” or “all” touches on essential beliefs. And beyond getting the doctrinal statements right, there is the question of, “How do we understand the essence of our faith, and of our rite, except in a vernacular?” Most of us tend to think in one vernacular or another.

      1. @Jim Pauwels:

        I don’t think those with authority have carte blanche to construct a ritual in whatever way strikes their fancy. For them, too, there are certain essentials of the rite that are “given”.

        This one time, a priest in Korea once told us, there were discussions about whether we could replace bread and wine at the Eucharist with something that’s more Korean, something that’s more familiar to our people, i.e., with tteok (traditional Korean rice cakes) and makgeolli (traditional Korean rice wine). The idea eventually fell through, however, because, the priest explained, it was decided that the bread and wine, although they’re foreign* to us, are “essentials of the rite that are ‘given'” and therefore, not something that can be “inculturated out.”

        (*I’m guessing it’s been a long while since these discussions took place, because pretty much no one would consider bread and wine too foreign for Koreans these days.)

      2. @Jim Pauwels:
        “Perhaps I’m going too far in conflating the content of the rite with the deposit of faith…”

        I think if you applied the principle that what is essential to a rite is only what corresponds to the deposit of faith it would obliterate not only the Roman Rite, but all rites of the Church. It seems to me that the culture in which the rite developed has something to do with the essence of a rite? The Roman Rite developed in an ancient Roman context. That context became part of what defines and distinguishes that particular rite from say, the Byzantine Rite, or any other rite. The culture in which the rite took its shape seems to me as part of a rites essence. If that’s the case, then we need to preserve it. If Americans want another rite, then they should create another rite. But, not destroy the Roman Rite. The council fathers certainly permitted inculturation. But, not at the expense of loosing the Roman Rite.

      3. @Steve Hartley:

        “I think if you applied the principle that what is essential to a rite is only what corresponds to the deposit of faith it would obliterate not only the Roman Rite, but all rites of the Church. ”

        Right. That wasn’t quite the principle I was seeking to apply; it was rather that those charged with preserving the deposit of faith also are charged with preserving what is essential about the rite (as part of their overall governance of the rite). The relationship between liturgy and deposit of faith seems pretty complex to me, not least because of the cultural aspects of the liturgy that you mention.

        How distinctively “Roman” the Roman Catholic rite needs to be, I am not sure. Personally, I would like to see the Roman chant preserved in active, live use, even if that’s only in a relative handful of churches and monasteries.

  15. Elizabeth, that is very interesting. Just speaking for myself, I could wish that rice cakes and rice wine could be deemed appropriate elements for the Eucharist, if that makes sense in that cultural context.

    Actually, in the US, bread and wine would make for a rather unusual meal, at least for the culture I’m from. In our house, it’s more likely to be whole wheat toast and coffee from the Keurig :-). Bread and wine, if they have any connotations for me, would be dining out – the glass(es) of wine and the bread basket. Is fine dining what the Eucharist is supposed to connect with? I don’t know.

    1. @Margaret Coffey:
      Well I actually appreciated the character assessments – I assume it’s well-founded and it’s helpful to me in knowing more about how the committee might operate and what it might decide. Of course it’s unsourced – well-founded impressions of people are based upon many life experiences which are hardly documented or footnoted anywhere.

      awr

  16. @Anthony Ruff

    Character ‘assessments’ may be based on many life experiences – as you suggest – but equally life experience tells me that they may be sourced from what is essentially hearsay and gossip. In turn such an assessment may become an unfounded commonplace. Perhaps this is something that bears thinking about.

    1. @Margaret Coffey:
      Margaret,

      My analysis is my own, and I take responsibility for it. I do not claim to be infallible, but I resent the suggestion that my comments are based on nothing but hearsay and gossip. The open thread nature of a post such as this one allows others to offer differing perspectives and additional information if they have it. If there is a particular assessment here that you disagree with, and you would like to present evidence to the contrary, you are free to do so.

  17. Pray Tell’s reporting is not based on hearsay and gossip. I’m sorry you thought (or assumed) otherwise. Our reporting is responsible and we stand by it.
    awr

  18. A belated thanks for this timely article and your insightful analysis. I share your hope that this committee will be able to recognize and address aspects of LA that have weakened or harmed the prayer of the Church. I found your character assessments helpful, and far from mean-spirited or slanderous. Those who have other insights to contribute should do so.

    I have no illusions that we will soon be praying in a manner informed by the translation guidelines used in the shelved 1998 Sacramentary. I would at least welcome an acknowledgment that the current guidelines (LA) have not proven to serve the Church well and should be revised. I pray that the committee takes some inspiration from the current pope’s approach to pastoral ministry and can lead us toward prayers that more profoundly touch the hearts of the faithful with understanding and immediacy, yet consistent with our long tradition.

  19. Thank you for your replies – and thank you for the open thread. @RitaFerrone I’ve admired and follow your writing in Commonweal and have absolutely no wish to impute ill motives or methods to you. Really, I was offering a very simple gut reaction comment in response to the post, drawing attention to the ways ‘character’ assessments emerge, enter the arena and circulate – to be taken up and in turn proffered to enquirers. On the way, the tracking details have gone missing. Your accounts in the post of individuals’ qualifications and experience are helpful and interesting and I have no competence to add to them. @Anthony Ruff With respect, after a career in journalism, I think of ‘reporting’ as involving upfront sourcing (there is much of this in the blog post where the author’s own experience and knowledge is adverted to). On Pray Tell I find enlightening your posts (amongst others) on liturgical matters because they are written out of specialist knowledge and expertise (and enthusiasm).

  20. It is certainly encouraging that the Pope has initiated this re-examination of “Liturgiam Authenticam” (a misnomer if ever there was one!). However, the ‘lineup’ of the committee does not seem to me encouraging, apart from a couple of clear reformers. So —sadly— my hopes are not high for a really good outcome, but maybe I’m too pessimistic.

    One of the major casualties of this debacle, at least here in North America, has been a loss of confidence by many ecumenical parties in the credibility and commitment of the Roman Catholic Church, since LA unilaterally abrogated our agreements with Protestants and Episcopalians regarding the use of common texts. And of course, since we broke our word regarding those agreements, who can be sure of our good faith in any other agreements we might enter into? It will take a long time to heal that wound.

    @Steve Hartley:
    As to the matter of the Roman rite as a (more or less) uniform rite, it only dates back to the Council of Trent, and there still exist a number of other Latin rites in the “West”, as well as others in the “East”. I’m not sure that it is “the job of those with teaching authority in the Roman Catholic church to preserve what is essential about the Roman rite.”
    What is more striking (at least to me) is the fact that ALL of the rites of the ancient Churches, and some of those springing from the Reformation, all follow a common “Shape of the Liturgy” (as Dom Gregory Dix called it). That tradition, while not in Scripture and perhaps not binding, has strong authority about how we structure our Eucharistic liturgies. Those variations in the Shape give us a good indication of the sorts of variations which may be permissible, even if the Shape is not entirely normative.
    In the long run, perhaps what is more germane is what is “called the liturgical field, the holistic network of interrelationships that binds together discrete things, acts, people, and events into the activity we call worship.” (Lawrence A. Hoffman, from Notre Dame)…

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