(See part I here.)
The end of May I did some presenting on missal chants in St. Paul-Minneapolis at the BCDW – FDLC workshop on the new missal. It was part of a series of 22 such workshops being offered across the country through this November. I enjoyed presenting the musical gems of the new missal and helping clergy and ministers sing them well. The mood was positive overall, especially among the young priests nearest the presenter at the front of the room. But out of curiosity, later in the day I chose a seat at the back of the room. Here the mood was noticeably different – smirks and groans and derisive comments – all shared quietly among like-minded folks.
Now a young monk of our house tells me about the recent workshop of the series in Louisville. It got rather ugly. Clergy did not hold back with their anger and frustration and objections to the new missal. It’s a part of a pattern – it seems that the mood at these workshops is getting successively more aggressive and hostile.
The discussion is also heating up behind the scenes. At least two national bishops’ conferences are doing comprehensive studies of the problems in the final missal text. (To clarify: this refers to the ‘presentation text’ given to the Holy Father when the recognitio was granted. It contains the entire Order of Mass and proper texts common to all regions. The final texts with national propers have not yet been received from Rome.) And the problems in this ‘presentation text’ which have leaked out are quite unbelievable. “Freed from all inordinate desires” in a Lenten preface has been changed to “freed from disordered affections” – one wonders if they’ll footnote a Vatican instruction on sexual ethics?! Elsewhere, “do not allow those you have redeemed…” has become “do not suffer, we pray, those you have redeemed…” One prayer, after mentioning “your people” and “pathways,” now has this line: “lead it along them, we pray…” Surely everyone will track the pronouns in that?! “People” isn’t a singular noun anymore in your dialect of English, you say? And this was to be the papacy that brought back beauty and holiness and solemnity to the sacred liturgy. Good grief, some of these texts sound like they’re from a Monty Python skit. Or Norwegian put through a Google translator.
Various emergency meetings of bishops’ conference leaders are hastily being called. The machinery of one national conference (not necessarily the US) is considering which cardinalatial power to send to Rome to discuss the missal text. At least one national conference is wondering whether the conference should not vote again on the final text, since it is so different from what they voted on and sent to Rome. Some wonder whether a conference can withdraw its submission. One conference (not necessarily the US) has placed the missal translation on the agenda for its conference meeting late this fall.
You see the timing issues raised by that last bit of information: if the missal text is still up in the air in October or November 2010, then a rollout in 2011 can’t very well happen.
The Roman officials are in an unenviable position. The more time that is taken to fix the final text, the more the planned timeline gets derailed. But the more quickly the final text is approved, more or less as is, to stick to the planned timeline, the more the text risks massive rejection. The path forward is narrowing, and the Roman officials will have to do some very tricky navigating. They have to take just enough time to get it right, but still get it done in good time if further delays are to be avoided.
I suppose some will say that it’s worth taking the time to get it right. It’s been forty five years since Vatican II closed, it’s been over nine years since Liturgiam authenticam was issued; what’s another year or two in the life of the Church? True enough – but what about all those workshops and conferences and training sessions scheduled for the rest of the summer and the coming year? What about all those ready-to-publish new Mass settings? What about all those DVDs and books and booklets and pamphlets which have already been produced…based on a perhaps obsolete text? A delay would be painful for many, many people.
Other scenarios are possible. If the whole thing is called off (yes, this could still happen), not many will be ready to show up at a meeting early on a Monday morning to start the fun all over again. After nearly two decades on the ICEL sacramentary which Rome threw in the wastebasket, after nearly a decade on this missal…if it doesn’t happen this time, it won’t happen at all for a good long time.
Pray Tell encourages everyone to start praying! As to what to pray for…well, we leave that up to you.