Missal Implementation Flowchart

The Possibilities

The Best Case Scenario

A Likely Scenario

For this to happen on schedule the national liturgy offices need to receive the final text real soon. “Mid-June” came and went. Last Friday came and went. Now it’s “next week.” We shall see.

The national liturgy offices may support the final text, and all goes forward. Or, they may not support the final text but believe they have no other options, and all goes forward. Or they may point to the final text’s inaccuracies and paraphrases and inconsistencies and oddities: they consider the final text unpublishable and unusable.

In the latter case, the conference presidents will face a tricky decision. The presidents may, in consultation with the Holy See, set the implementation date anyway, and all goes forward. Or the presidents may judge that this can’t work, they don’t want to face a PR disaster at a time when Church authority is already destabilized by you-know-what. (The presidents might also have a few thoughts about how the conferences were treated in the final round of text revision.) The conference presidents may seek “dialogue” with the Holy See. This technical term is best translated as “long delays” – not least because the Romans take off in August. But I suppose it could still be settled later this fall in time for 2011 implementation.

When the implementation date is announced, there are plans to put the entire missal text online immediately. The idea is that the quality of the text will speak for itself, with enthusiastic acclamation (or is it laud?) arising on all sides. The more likely scenario is an online dogfight. Someone will publish a list of mistranslations of Latin in the final text (that could be a long post). Someone will point out, no doubt with examples, how the last round of revisions made the text more contorted and harder to understand. Someone will point out, no doubt with examples, how the final text violates Liturgiam authenticam. Someone could start a “can you top this?” website, with examples from the new missal submitted in succession, to general derision.

Many will rise up to defend the text – folks at the Mundelein Liturgical Institute, for example. They will have their work cut out for them. (I very much enjoyed being with old friends at Mundelein this week. Before setting out I put up a note on the monastery bulletin board that I would be at Mundelein for a ‘ten-year celebration.’ A confrere was surprised that I was back already in 3 days – he didn’t expect me until 2020. Good thing I’m not involved in developing comprehensible English for the new missal.) I was quite struck by the rapid growth of the Mundelein Liturgical Institute and, with such a large number of students, its potential influence on the Church. A recurring refrain throughout the anniversary festivities was that “we don’t question the liturgy of the Church, we implement it. We don’t critique the translation, we accept it gratefully.” I leave it to others to judge whether this is being done critically or uncritically.

Maybe all this won’t matter that much to the people in the pews. Maybe they’ll see the change the way they see each new version of Microsoft Word – a hassle for a few weeks until you get used to it, nothing more. The greatest opposition will surely arise from (some) clergy and (some) liturgical scholars and (some) lay liturgical ministers. Let us pray for them in their difficulties. Let us pray for the bishops who will lead us through this. Oh – and pray for the poor publishers. They must be wondering what is going on as they nervously look at their tight budget projections.

I’m sure God has something to teach his Church through all this. We just don’t know what it is yet. I’m trying to open my heart for any and all surprises.


  1. “We don’t question the liturgy of the Church, we implement it. We don’t critique the translation, we accept it gratefully.” Wow. If this is an accurate assessment of the spirit of the Mundelein Institute, it sounds like a “check your brains at the door and grab your Crayolas” situation. How can you have any serious academic setting without the freedom and willingness to question assumptions and challenge the status quo?

  2. All I have to say is, “GOOD LORD, WHAT THE HECK IS HAPPENING TO OUR CHURCH?” This whole thing could turn out to be very embarrassing for many. I’m sure the media will pick up on it too.

  3. As I have said elsewhere, Mundelein has gone backwards for years. It once was a “shining light” in terms of liturgical practice – both theological development, liturgical development, and implementation via LTP. It is now an embarrassment whose graduates are “afflicted” on more educated members of parishes. Sad!

  4. Not to this Catholic Bill. It seems to be maturing into an effective pastoral ministry of the whole Church rather than a publishing arm for a niche group.

  5. “Maybe they’ll see the change the way they see each new version of Microsoft Word – a hassle for a few weeks until you get used to it, nothing more.”

    Hmm. I stocked up on Office 2003 and Windows XP. Just sat out the whole Vista thing. Looks like it was a good idea.

    Just will wait for awhile until Microsoft gets its act together.

    I do get the latest in computers and monitors though. They work really fast with the old software.

  6. Jan: Let’s try to be fair here and not jump to the worst conclusions. The truth of the matter is that the missal has received the recognitio–what is the point in trying to do anything else but accept it and implement it as serenely as possible? (If anyone at the Mundelein Institute had been asked for input during the process, I know there would have been very thoughtful suggestions). Sure, we all have our own opinions, but the Church has made its decision whether any of us likes it or not, just as it did with the texts of Vatican II. The idea, then, is to figure out how to implement it in the lives of the Christian faithful so as to bring the most spiritual benefit. (I would propose that stirring people up to undermine their confidence in the missal does not aid them spiritually). If I understand it correctly, the workshop that Mundelein presented at its anniversary was about teaching people how to implement the new Missal, not about political agitation to bang their heads against the wall of a recognitio. It was a workshop about implementation, not a classroom discussion on its merits. Fr. Ruff should have noted this, I believe, but perhaps he is more interested in getting angry comment traffic to his blog than telling the whole truth… but that’s just the (somewhat disappointing) nature of the blogosphere!

    1. Hi Joseph,
      As I said in the post, the comments at Mundelein about “implementing, not questioning” were made “throughout the festivities,” not just at the workshop which was part of the celebration. The point is, they were describing the mission and philosophy of the Liturgical Institute to the many clergy and donors in attendance.

      1. One very interesting aspect of this is the radio silence at certain rather loud blogs that have heretofore been championing the wonders of the translation process. It pays to pay attention to what is not being said…

  7. Joseph Metcalf, the recognitio has been given — yet the text has since been discovered to be full of “errors and inconsistencies” and their correction has been entrusted to an American Monsignor. So the recognitio is not a very solid wall. And as we saw elsewhere, the German bishops had to withdraw a text despite its official status in response to wide protests from the faithful and clergy who found it unusable.

  8. I think it goes without saying that a new Missal is not on the priority list of the vast majority of Catholics. Most have been shaken by the worldwide extent of the sexual abuse scandal, embarrassed by the Church’s tarnished image, and deeply worried about the impact of the growing shortage of ordained presiders. I fear that the introduction of a new Missal (especially one with such tortured prose) will not be received well. It is likely many Catholics will question why such time and energy are being focused on this undertaking when there are far more obvious and pressing needs in the Church.

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