The Italian journal La Civiltà Cattolica, well known for publishing views and perspectives which reflect those of the Holy Father, has dedicated the lead story of its current issue to the subject of liturgical translations. The article incisively presents Liturgiam authenticam as a detour from the foundational principles of the Second Vatican Council, and praises Pope Francis’s recent motu proprio, Magnum principium, for putting the Church back on course. It also situates, correctly, Comme le Prevoit as one of the “great instructions” flowing from the Council.
The article is entitled «MAGNUM PRINCIPIUM» E L’INCULTURAZIONE LITURGICA NEL SOLCO DEL CONCILIO, “Magnum Principium and Liturgical Inculturation on the Path of the Council.” Fr. Cesare Giraudo SJ, distinguished professor emeritus of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, is the author of the article. Among his other accomplishments, Fr. Giraudo was one of the scholars closely involved in the landmark ecumenical decision, under Pope Saint John Paul II, to approve the validity of the ancient Anaphora of Addai and Mari, practiced by the Assyrian Church of the East.
The full article (in Italian) is available to subscribers only, but below is the abstract in English translation, followed by some extracts (rendered in English by Matthew Sherry) that were taken from the full article and published today in Sandro Magister’s blog.
Anyone reading that blog should take care to note that Mr. Magister’s hostile evaluation of the Pope’s intentions (a “comprehensive plan to make the Church evolve from monolithic to federated”) is not borne out by the facts. The article speaks of “subsidiarity”—which is something totally different, and a far more applicable concept for understanding what the Pope has done.
Magister does, however, correctly assess the close connection between this publication and Pope Francis’s own views and program, in general. Therefore, the article merits our attention as an indication of the direction the Holy See is moving. Is this article another nail in the coffin of Liturgicam authenticam? Time will tell, but it certainly seems so.
It is indeed a “great principle” that the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium proclaimed in Article 36, which conceded to the individual liturgical assemblies the right to speak with God in their own language. This problem had already been confronted and successfully resolved in the middle of the ninth century by Saints Cyril and Methodius, who listed liturgical language among the goods of which nobody can be deprived.
In Italy, the first who dared to put in the hands of the Christian people a translation of all the prayers of the Mass, including the canon, was Lodovico Antonio Muratori in his book The Regulated Devotion of Christians, published in 1747. Yet it is necessary to recognize that there is still a great gap between putting the text of the Mass in the hands of the people in the vernacular, and actually adopting these vernacular languages for the celebration of Mass. By filling that gap, the Second Vatican Council in the liturgical constitution responded positively to a long-felt desire. Let us say immediately that at the level of reception, from the early years, there has intervened a frivolity of conduct that has not seldom blunted the goodness of the conciliar purpose.
Now with the Motu proprio Magnum Principium, Pope Francis, concerned to redefine the relationship between the Apostolic See and the Bishops’ Conferences on a matter that is particularly delicate and arouses strong feelings, has returned to the conferences “the right and the responsibility” (ius et munus) for the translation of liturgical books. In order to do this, he was obliged to realign Canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law, and related documents, with the Council’s norms.
Moreover, who is better able to judge their conformity with the original texts than the Episcopal Conferences, each of which oversees the panel of experts who drafted the translations? Furthermore, every translation by its very nature is already an interpretation. Pure, aseptic translation does not exist. Those who claim that this is a possibility will sooner or later end up encountering formulations that do not translate but betray the original.
Following the promulgation of the Motu Proprio Magnum Principium, which was accompanied by a note and an explanatory comment, a letter to the Pontiff written by Cardinal Robert Sarah concerning Magnum Principium appeared in a number of press organs. In it, he ended up presenting the new practice as a reaffirmation of the old state of affairs. In the face of this erroneous interpretation, the Pontiff was forced to act in the same way, i.e., publicly. Now that the changes have been clarified, liturgical inculturation will certainly benefit from this measure regarding translation, intended to infuse new blood into the Church’s patrimony of prayer.
Some extracts which appeared in Sandro Magister’s blog
With the creation of the “Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de sacra Liturgia,” set up by Paul VI with the Motu Proprio “Sacram Liturgiam” of January 25, 1964, the liturgical reform, setting off on a path marked out by the first great instructions: “Inter oecumenici” (1964), “Tres abhinc annos” (1967), “Comme le prévoit” (1969), and “Liturgicæ instaurationes” (1970). Although later, for ideological reasons, the instruction “Comme le prévoit,” meaning the letter from Cardinal Lercaro to the presidents of the episcopal conferences on the translation of liturgical texts, was not taken into account among the great instructions, it remains such, and as such must be understood. […]
The first great instructions were later joined by two more from the congregation for divine worship: “Varietates legitimæ” (1994) and “Liturgiam authenticam” (2001).
This last above all has been systematically presented as a normative point of reference – as the subtitles say – not only “on the use of vernacular languages in the publication of the books of the Roman liturgy,” but also “for the right implementation of the constitution on the sacred liturgy.” […]
What to say about the instruction “Liturgiam authenticam”? […] Obviously, the person most qualified to evaluate the directives contained in it is the expert on liturgy, theology, and pastoral practice. […]
The liturgist does not conceal his perplexity when he notes, for example, that the notion of “liturgical reform” is entrusted, in the whole instruction, to six parsimonious occurrences of the expression “instauratio liturgica.” And the question arises: why shroud with such modesty that ecclesial event of such great proportions which was the liturgical reform desired by Vatican II and prudently managed by Paul VI himself? And why so much emphasis, in relation to the admittedly necessary verification, on a centralization that risks damaging the role of the episcopal conferences and of mortifying the dignity of the local Churches? […]
Reading and rereading “Liturgiam authenticam,” perhaps more than one person will have wondered if the end of the line had truly come for the management of the vernacular languages in the editions of liturgical books.
But the recent motu proprio “Magnum principium” has offered an important and clear response. […] Pope Francis has decided that he had to intervene to streamline procedures that an excessive polarization over the notion of “recognitio” had brought to a point of stagnation, but above all to give back to the territorial episcopal conferences those responsibilities in liturgical matters that had been unduly taken away from them. […]
While before the congregation had authority over the “recognitio” of liturgical translations, previously elaborated by the episcopal conferences, which went through the exacting sieve of “Liturgiam authenticam,” from now on all the authority over translations is being restored to the episcopal conferences, which are going back to being the authoritative and only guarantors of their fidelity. […]
You can read the whole thing here.