I guess there’s some sporting event or the other going on in South Africa, does anyone know anything about that? I somehow missed it. But the mention of South Africa did put me in mind of the liturgical situation there.
You’ve probably heard that, because of a misunderstanding, the South Africans put the new translation of the Order of Mass into effect in Advent 2008, right after Rome released the ‘final’ text. (Reports here and here.) The reception was very stormy, with a deluge of letters to editor. Here’s one: “I hate you, hierarchy.” The English-speaking Catholic Church in South Africa is generally very passive, so the uproar took the bishops completely by surprise.
I hear that the uproar has calmed down somewhat now, but there is fear it will flare up again once the rest of the Order of Mass and the propers come into use – especially when they find out that some of the words in the Order of Mass have been fiddled with since 2008.
You might remember Archbishop Denis Hurly (+ 2004) of South Africa, founding member and later president of ICEL with an esteemed reputation as a pastor and theologian. His successor is Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, who is rather unpopular and has earned a reputation as somewhat of a bully. Working with him to promote the new translation is the head of the liturgy department, Bishop Edward Risi OMI (same religious order as Hurley). Bishop Risi justified jumping the gun by stating publicly that it was introduced because of a clamor from priests who had already started using it and “loved it.” Rome asked South Africa to cease and desist and revert immediately to the 1973 translation. The bishops begged Rome to avoid such a back-and-forth, so it was agreed that they would keep the people’s new parts in use, but would not introduce the as-yet-not-used new Eucharistic Prayers. In the appeal to Rome from South Africa, it was written that a sizeable group of Catholics do not like the new texts because they perceive them to be inferior English, and because they find objectionable the use of “man” (in EP 4) and “men” (in the creed) to refer all people.
Bishop Risi has dismissed the objections as “coming from a vociferous minority of academics and intellectuals.” Cardinal Napier dismissed the objections as coming from laity who don’t know what they’re talking about and from clergy who are disobedient. About 90 priests of the Archdiocese of Capetown asked former Archbishop Henry in 2009 to be allowed to continue to use the 1973 translation for pastoral reasons. He sent the request to the president of the conference, and that was the end of that.
Some parishes still use the 1973 translation in full, some out of inertia, some because they consider the new product inferior. One parish priest asked for a vote from his congregation; they voted to keep the old, which they did. Quite a few priests have resorted to “hybridizing,” particularly the introduction to the Our Father, and avoiding the new version of the Nicene Creed – using the Apostle’s Creed instead.
The only bishop showing sympathy for the critics so far is Bishop Kevin Dowling CSsR of Rustenburg. He wrote that the concerns of people and clergy are “similar to my own… it was a purely arbitrary decision…many of the changes made no sense.” He wrote, “My personal views…are expressed out of deep concern about the hurt and damage decisions like these can cause to the People of God. It cannot be presumed that thinking lay faithful, priests and religious are simply going to accept what is imposed on them from above when it makes no sense to them. … I believe the English-speaking conferences of bishops should have stood their ground and challenged the decisions taken at the Vatican as an expression of collegial discernment. … It seems to me that we need to take much more seriously our collegial role and mission as bishops in accordance with the vision and theology of Vatican II, and after discernment and consultation with all the People of God stand up for what we believe to be in the best interests of our people.”