Irish Bishops on Translation

Statement of the Winter 2017 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Translation of Liturgical Texts

Bishops welcomed the motu proprio of Pope Francis, Magnum Principium, concerning the translation of liturgical texts.  While moving towards implementation of the provisions of Magnum Principium, the bishops will give time to reflection and discussion on the full implications of the motu proprio.  The Bishops’ Conference will continue to work collaboratively with other national Bishops’ Conferences, including through the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, in realizing the principles of Magnum Principium, while giving full regard to the rights and responsibilities of the Bishops’ Conference as affirmed by the Holy Father Pope Francis.

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23 comments

  1. Well, thank God they didn’t close any doors by presumptively announcing that all former efforts are “irreversible”! Simple, positive, collegial, and to the point. Bravo, Irish bishops.

    1. Hi, Rita! I do have a question about the Congregations response to the New Zealand bishops request to implement the ’98 Sacramentary. They said that Magnum Principium cannot be invoked retroactively. Well, couldn’t they spruce up the ’98 missal, and present it as something new? There’s got to be some way we can ditch Missal 2011!

      1. Stephen, I think it is possible, in principle, to do what you are suggesting. Not a verbatim return of that earlier text, but a reworked version that addresses the problems of intelligibility and native idiom with which we struggle in the 2011 version. The bishops of England and Wales say this cannot be done, and we are literally stuck with what we have until the Roman Missal is revised again. But this conviction is based upon an explanatory letter from the Congregation, the weight of which is not clear, and the specifics of which have not been released. It may be a bit cynical of me, but I suspect that the bishops simply don’t have the will to change and are using the CDW letter as a convenient excuse. If they did want change, we would see changes — or so I believe. The New Zealand bishops have more courage, and have made it known that they want to reopen the case. Perhaps a discussion will come about as a result of this. Pray for the bishops of New Zealand to remain courageous!

  2. It seems like a pretty vague and diplomatic statement. It could hide behind it anything from jubilation for serious course correction or a desire to continue forward with roughly the same translation philosophy.

  3. I hope that this means that the Irish bishops are willing to follow the lead of some other English-speaking bishops’ conference (e.g. New Zealand) if they take the lead and approve some version of the 1998 Sacramentary. In particular given that the most recent survey taken in Ireland shows that 61% of priests here are dissatisfied with the current translation and 890% think that the current translation should be replaced: https://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/MissalSurvey2014.pdf

    However, a November 30 article in the Irish Catholic, the only serious Catholic newspaper here, was entitled “Ireland will not re-visit Mass changes despite Pope’s green light.” The article interviews various responsibles of the liturgy here and its by-line says it all: “Cost seen as barrier to new translation”: https://www.irishcatholic.com/ireland-will-not-re-visit-mass-changes-despite-popes-green-light/

    I hope that this press release that post-dates the Irish Catholic article shows an improvement of the bishops’ openness, and that filthy lucre does not precedence over what is best for the People of God. Money should not be an obstacle for good liturgy, even when this entails a certain amount of sacrifice. People are willing to spend money for good liturgy. For example, on the first Sunday of Advent the new Irish language translation of the Roman Missal was introduced. It costs 300 Euro a copy and almost all of the 800 copies printed were bought by parishes, even if very few parishes have a regular Irish Mass. I know this is totally anecdotal, but just last week I was talking with a parish priest (pastor) in a local parish who told me that he would happily pay for a new missal in English out of his own pocket, if it was in everyday language that the people of his parish could actually understand.

  4. Would it save money if it were published on line rather than as hard copy? How much of the cost is due to publishing?

  5. The new Liturgy of the Hours, translated under the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam, is already well under way and the first grey book is in circulation. This probably needs more urgent attention than a future revision of the Missal. Unless the English-speaking bishops are able to find the pastoral determination (and scholarship) of their German, French and Italian confreres at this first stage of the LH project, I fear all is lost. Will they be willing to bring Magnum Principium to bear on the new version of the Liturgy of the Hours while it is still in process? Do we know anything about what is going on?

  6. In the interest of clarity, Magnum Principilium did NOT abrogate Liturgicum Authenticum; it is still in full effect and is likely to be so for the foreseeable future. Though MP changed the process by which translations are to be executed (leaving most of the work to bishops conferences instead of CDWDS directly) it does not change the principles guiding them. As the bishops of England and Wales recently found out, CDWDS won’t approve a translation that doesn’t comply with LA (whether it’s RM 1998 or something similar), not because they’re hard nosed traddies that hate MP, but because LA is the law of the land and they don’t even have the authority to unilaterally get rid of it. In this regard, MP changes almost nothing in terms of which translations can be approved and which can’t.

    As fun as it is to think all we need to do to begin praying the RM 1998 in our pews is to convince our bishops to have it approved, they can’t, and they know this. Pope Francis could order to abrogate LA in the near future, but he probably won’t, and at some point we Catholics need to accept that. As such, so long as LA is here, any realistic successor to RM 2010 will probably only include marginal changes, such as replacing big words (“consubstantial”) or minor revisions to a few particularly clunky collects or prayers. Beyond that, don’t expect the bulk of RM 2010 to go anywhere anytime soon.

    1. As a follow up, all Magnum Principium did was say that Rome could not edit what the bishops had submitted. They still have to give the thumbs up or thumbs down. I hate to rain on everyone’s parade, but as for MR1998, they have given the thumbs down, and that still stands. If the English speaking bishops want to replace MR2011 then they will have to go through the whole process and come up with something new.

      1. No, you know, you’re both wrong about this.

        Witness the Holy Father’s correction to Cardinal Sarah. Liturgiam authenticam does NOT uphold the “threefold fidelity” that Pope Francis has explicitly called for. What is it about this correction that you don’t understand? It’s impossible to claim both that what Pope Francis has said is to be obeyed, and that LA stands.

        Let’s be clear. Liturgiam authenticam is no longer “the law of the land” because it explicitly demands the opposite of what the Pope has said in Magnum principium concerning the balance between the conferences and the CDW.

        Furthermore, Fr. Forte, you are forgetting the entire context for the rejection of the 1998 translation. The recognitio was not given because Liturgiam authenticam was about to change the rules by which translations were approved. Now, those rules have changed again.

        I agree that the bishops have to come up with something new. But not because the CDW did not give the 1998 the recognitio. Rather, because we are now in a new place and need to re-evaluate the whole process given what has transpired. The 1998 is a body of work that can inform a future evaluation and the bishops would be foolish not to draw from it.

  7. By the way, whenever I hear that LA “has not been abrogated” I cannot help but remark that you are playing a different language game than the Pope is here, and it doesn’t help. It’s just a way to declare a stalemate when in fact change has already taken place.

    No one “abrogates” an instruction. What we are waiting for is the new instruction that will replace it. It’s coming. Don’t fool yourselves. In the meantime, through Magnum principium, the Pope has given relief to all those episcopal conferences (and they are many) who chafed under the demands of Liturgiam authenticam. These demands no longer will be enforced. And if that’s not equivalent to “abrogation” I don’t know what is.

    1. I would not say that Liturgiam authenticam is still the law of the land but it would be equally wrong to say that there has been a return to Comme le prévoit. As you have said, we are waiting for a new instruction. Perhaps this could be a time for the advocates of the two methods of translation to actually sit down, talk to each and come to some tertium quid that both can agree to. The reason that Liturgiam authenticam was issued in the first place is because the advocates of dynamic equivalence refused to take the critiques against the method seriously.

      As for the rejection of MS1998, Cardinal Medina laid out a well founded critique for its rejection. This critique, as well as the rejection, still stand. There is much complaint here at Pray Tell against the present translation, but let us not pretend that the 1998 translation was perfect and beyond its own criticism. It was in part because of the deafness against these criticism that Liturgiam authenticam needed to be issued. Even now, with the release of Magnum principium, we see the desire to ignore all criticism and impose a rejected translation on a vanquished foe. Despite the impression given here, many Catholics welcome the present translation and think that MS1998 is just as flawed a translation as you believe MS2011 is. Perhaps we should try to talk to one another rather than defeating each other.

      1. Who said that Comme le prevoit is the law of the land? No one has said this.

        Who said 1998 was perfect? Again, I do not see anyone arguing that. This is a straw man.

        Cardinal Medina’s critique of the 1998 translation is capable of being subjected to criticism itself, but it would take too long to take it apart here. This might be food for another post. (You know, no doubt, that Medina did not speak English.) But even Medina thought that the 1998 could be the basis for further work. When you speak about intransigence, however, you have the shoe on the wrong foot. Bishop Maurice Taylor and ICEL asked for meetings, they asked for compromise, but were met with angry rejection and the refusal to discuss the matter. Medina was pre-emptive of all attempts to conciliate differences. It was well known that Medina’s style was authoritarian rather than collaborative or conciliatory, and the bishops experienced this generally, not just at ICEL.

        That said, I agree with you that talking through some of the different points of view is beneficial, and there is room for discussion and debate. I would even say that the underlying values of what may seem to be unalterably opposed positions may not be mutually exclusive.

      2. Father Forte:

        Most Catholics would have no opinion of the 1998 text. They’ve never seen (nor heard) it.

        Do you really think that 2011 is a strictly formal equivalence translation? Is such a thing even possible in a text intended not for private reading but for public proclamation in the liturgical assembly?

        Translation is an art. It can’t be done with a slide rule in hand. It is a conversation between two languages, each of which has its own genius and claims. If one of the participants in the dialogue is given so exalted a status that the other is treated as an unlovely and pesky step-child, the conversation is doomed to fail. Comme le prevoit respected the vernacular languages whereas Liturgiam authenticam treats them at times almost with suspicion, a concession to our weakness. A sound translation will involve elements of both theories as does 1998. 1998 is not perfect, but it strived to make the texts live, breathe, and uplift. Cardinal Medina’s 2002 letter denying confirmatio acknowledged that the 1998 text had some merit, enough to provide a starting point to build upon towards a subsequent revision. It may yet.

        As for “deafness” to criticism, that’s a blunt charge. During the preparation of 1998, two public consultations, 1982, 1986, were held. As well, public progress reports were issued in 1988, 1990, 1992. Copies of these consultations and reports were sent to the superiors of the CDWDS.

        I readily join you in the hope of a less contentious conversation. Cessent iurgia maligna; cessent lites.

    2. Rita, from the various Catholic media I follow, I haven’t seen any explicit evidence of an impending successor to LA (if I’m wrong, please correct me, I am just a parish catechist…). From my understanding of reading MP and Archbishop Roche’s reading guide, MP seems less a product of Pope Francis’ supposed progressive liturgical tastes, and more part of broader program of Curia reform and eliminating needless delays in various church proceedings. As we all know, liturgical translation proceedings were notoriously inefficient and bureaucratic even before LA (RM 1998 was worked on for over a decade). Much like the now streamlined annulment process, Pope Francis no doubt saw these as easy processes to streamline that would make it much easier for Church leaders to serve the people of God.

      You’re absolutely right that MP takes some of the teeth out of LA insofar as CDWDS won’t be able to personally tweek drafts to meet its standards. But everything that’s happened since MP was promulgated, namely CDWDS striking down the English and Welsh bishops’ “request” to have RM 1998 approved, suggests that Pope Francis and CDWDS intend to continue to enforce LA in the capacity that they can; they would’ve explicitly scrapped it if they didn’t. If LA does indeed get replaced in the not-so-distant future, it’s still very doubtful that it would completely roll-back LA to the extent that something like RM 1998 would be even remotely acceptable, because in many ways RM 1998 was even more of a departure from the principles of LA than RM 1970. Because of this, I personally don’t think RM 1998 is or will be a useful starting point for future translations.

      1. Who said anything about Francis’s “supposed progressive liturgical tastes”? There you have created a straw man. This isn’t a case of tastes or progressive versus retrogressive. The Pope has been quite clear about the issue of respect for the receptor language and the pastoral need for intelligibility. These criteria have nothing to do with “tastes.” They do, however, mark a shift from Liturgiam authenticam.

        As far as a revision of Liturgiam authenticam, where have you been? The Pope’s correction to Cardinal Sarah said straight out that LA would have to be revised, and it did not limit the scope of that revision. Months ago the pope convened a committee of experts to advise him about the issues concerning the instruction LA, and listened to them in preparation for composing Magnum principium. Do you suppose he did this because he thought Liturgiam authenticam was perfect and needed to remain as it is, in full force? Or that the change in canon 138 was the sum and substance of everything needful to set this project on track for the future? No, indeed. That’s not a legitimate interpretation of events. It does not fit the facts.

      2. Rita, has there been an official statement from CDWDS or the LA review commission regarding a definitive replacement to LA? Are they still meeting? I haven’t seen anything explicitly indicating this, but please let me know if I’m wrong (you might more up to date on these developments than me!). What we do know is that MP was a product of the aforementioned LA review commission that was convened almost exactly a year ago, and it is at least conceivable that MP was the definitive “fix” to LA, absent any concrete evidence to the contrary (again, let me know if I’m missing something big).

        Regardless, if CDWDS is indeed preparing a successor to LA, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe it will include a complete rollback to ‘comme le prevoit’ for all the reasons Fr. Forte mentioned above. If Church history has taught us anything, developments in doctrine, liturgy, governance, etc. are progressive in that they always build on what came before it; the Pauline Mass built on the Tridentine Mass, and that on the pre-Tridentine Mass, and so on. A new instruction will almost certainly build on LA rather than completely ditching it; reinforcing what worked well (uniform textual and theological standards) and improving what didn’t (overly clunky language and micromanaging from CDWDS). If we want to explore what a future English RM translation would realistically look like, I’d start by looking at how we take soften the rough edges in RM 2010 that we just prayed earlier today. I’d also do a lookup of the 2008 pre-Vox Clara draft (probably the best of both worlds at this point).

  8. As a matter of record, Cardinal Medina did not give the thumbs-down to 1998 because LA was coming. He did it because a third edition of RM was coming. They scurried to get RM III done precisely in order to be able to say that 1998 was not a translation of the current RM and therefore could not be approved.

    1. Paul, I wonder if you could clarify what then the role of Medina’s critique was. Fr. Forte is right that he published criticisms. Are you saying Medina’s criticisms are irrelevant, because the reason for rejecting 1998 was only because it did not translate the current Missal?

      1. Yes, that was the principal excuse. Of course, Medina was aided and abetted by Cuthbert Johnson and others, and had a low opinion of ICEL’s work. (Johnson in particular campaigned endlessly against inclusive language).

        But the context for all this is the secret meeting between Ratzinger and Medina (who subsequently both signed the notorious letter to Paul VI in 1972) in which they established a pact, both agreeing that down the line they would work to undo everything that Vatican II had achieved. And so it turned out. Medina was simply following that policy, once he was in a position of power that enabled him to do so.

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