Bishop Christopher Coyne is the Catholic bishop of Burlington, Vermont. Pray Tell reached out to him for his thoughts on Pope Francis’s recent motu proprio, Magnum Principium, which gives primary responsibility for liturgical translations back to bishops’ conferences.
PTB: What effect do you think the Pope’s motu proprio will have?
CC: At this point, any effect that Magnum Principium will have on the work of the Conference will probably be with those documents that are only in the early stages of translation work, and new texts for saints days and votive Masses.
PTB: What about the Liturgy of the Hours?
CC: The new translation of the Liturgy of the Hours may be too far down the pipeline to start over. This would pretty much follow the decision that was made when Pope Francis first called for a review of the norms of LA [Liturgiam authenticam, the 2001 document which gave Rome centralized authority over translations – ed.] and would affect both the work of English and Spanish translation.
PTB: So, not much change?
CC: Who knows where the new norms will lead us? I currently serve on the Committee for Divine Worship under Archbishop [Wilton] Gregory’s leadership and I know that he is not “agenda driven.” We are just trying to get good liturgical translations completed and approved that are faithful to the editio typica [official Latin edition – ed.] while being pastorally and liturgically useful.
PTB: What about the Missal? There are people who want to see that text improved.
CC: I only speak for myself. While I would be open to a discussion of a possible new translation of the Missal, I’m not sure about the timing. I think we need to live with the text we have for a few more years and evaluate the translation in a way that is thoughtful, honest, and not agenda driven or divisive.
PTB: So it’s not your first priority?
CC: Right now as a Conference we have so many other things of greater import to deal with – a divided and angry nation, immigration reform, the protection of human life, the promotion of marriage and support of families, but most especially the rapidly expanding loss of membership. People are leaving the Catholic Church, especially young people, and they are not coming back. This is a matter of incredible import because it is a matter of salvation. So, yes, I think the translation of liturgical texts is important, but it is not high on my priority list. I am worried about a future in which these texts would be used in empty churches.
PTB: Thank you for the conversation, Bishop Coyne. Blessings on your ministry!