The Vatican edits itself

In the speech Pope Benedict XVI gave to the UK bishops yesterday, he referred to “two specific matters that affect your episcopal ministry at this time. One is the imminent publication of the new translation of the Roman Missal. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the contribution you have made, with such painstaking care, to the collegial exercise of reviewing and approving the texts. This has provided an immense service to Catholics throughout the English-speaking world. I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration.

Today the Vatican Information Service posted an edited version on its website. Note what they cut:

The Holy Father concluded by referring to “two specific matters that affect your episcopal ministry at this time. One is the imminent publication of the new translation of the Roman Missal. … I encourage you now to seize the opportunity that the new translation offers for in-depth catechesis on the Eucharist and renewed devotion in the manner of its celebration.”

No more reference to collegial exercise of reviewing and approving texts. Why do you suppose that disappeared? Could it be, perhaps, because there was no such collegial exercise of review by the bishops? Because a few folks in Vox Clara high-jacked the whole thing and put whatever they wanted into the final text, without consulting the bishops’ conferences (or the musicians, but that’s another issue)? Because Vox Clara worked mostly from the Gray Book (i.e., second-last draft) when it began its work last September, thereby largely ignoring the conferences’ work in the preparation of their White Book (i.e., final draft) submitted to Rome late last year? (Note the timing – Vox Clara was already revising by then.)

I hear from two sources this morning that some UK bishops were intent on getting the ear of the Holy Father during his visit. To tell him that this thing simply can’t go forward in its present disastrous state. To plead with him that the text be reviewed, improved, and given to bishops for  review.

And now we can only wonder. Did any bishops get through to the pope? Are things being shaken up inside the Vatican? I wouldn’t get my hopes up. But I do wonder – why did VIS cut those lines??

27 comments

  1. Interesting though this is, I think the cut is attributable to the fact that it’s a press release rather than a verbatim account of the speech.

    1. Yes, that does seem likely. But still, they only saved a few lines, and they were lines praising collegiality in the church, so I wonder why they’d cut that.
      awr

  2. Although I have the current UK books for the Liturgy of the Hours, I don’t often look at them. But this weekend being what it was, I did, and I was reminded that they are very different from the American four-volume LoH. Antiphons, collects, responsories and interecessions are far superior translations and far superior poetry to the US books. The new missal translation is clumsy, dissonant, and at times incoherent in comparison: accepting it as “English” must be heart-wrenching for the clergy in the UK.

  3. There are, of course, differences between US and UK English (in the missal they come to the fore regarding our past perfect when you just use a simple past). But this consideration really seems to me immaterial when we are dealing with the theories of translation underlying the different versions of the Missal. A good text will be good in the UK, in Ireland and in the US; and a bad text will be a bad one. I certainly don’t, in my serious moments, think that US English is less English than UK English. (Where I do have my gripes is when, in the interests of getting rid of thees and thous, US hymn compilers murder great but older English texts, such as Wesley’s Love Divine.)

  4. Even though I’m a supporter of LA, the VC final version does raise questions.

    If collects are going to be, “Almighty God, who…”,

    why do we have, “Lamb of God, you…”?

    I’m actually beginning to agree with many of you here that the final draft still needs some work.

    I understand “Our Father, who art….” and “Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee….” Perhaps under the law of Immemorial Custom. But the Lamb of God translation is only 40 years old. Not sure the same applies.

  5. I have a couple of questions, if I may: From where did the Gray Book come? Secondly, how can you be so sure that Vox Clara “largely ignored the conferences’ work in the preparation of their White Book (i.e., final draft)?”

    1. I think you and all of us know that the Gray Book comes from conferences – it’s their second last (not their last) draft. I.e., not a good starting point for final revisions. And one would think that any revisions would be rather minor at the last stage, especially since Vox Clara got to chime in at every stage over all these years. But the revisions aren’t minor in this case. The sources used on Pray Tell who are so sure of what Vox Clara did, you can assume, have seen the texts and have good basis for their reports. Or have you seen all the relevant texts, and are you able confidently to contradict our sources??
      awr

  6. Fr Ruff,

    The verbatim of the Holy Father’s speech, including the collegial exercise that made the new translation possible, IS on the Vatican website at http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2010/september/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20100919_vescovi-inghilterra_en.html.

    The editor of the press release probably cut that portion out because he thought it was unimportant – and it probably would have seemed unimportant to most people who are not attuned to the gossip circulating in some circles.

  7. Much as I liked the Benedict who starred in last week’s papal visit, he is still royalty — that is, a figure who sweeps by in lofty pageant. The abuse victims have partly succeeded in breaking through the protective cordon but the angst over the new translations has not penetrated the royal bubble.

  8. Oh, I see, awr, your “sources.”

    Well my sources tell me that the authority to regulate the sacred liturgy rests with the Holy See. That being the case, the notion that Vox Clara “high-jacked the whole thing” is difficult to take seriously.

    My unsolicited advice? Let go of this fantasy that Rome somehow had an obligation to consult (presumably to seek approval?) with the conferences (which clearly had their input along the way regardless of how your “sources” might choose to quantify it) with regard to the final text.

    I am encouraged to know, however, that you wouldn’t get your hopes up that things are being shaken up inside the Vatican over the disastrous text.

    In all sincerity, floating the kinds of juvenile conspiracy theories and over the top hyperbole found in this post is a very effective way of making sure that whatever valuable insights you may have to offer on this topic are rarely given serious consideration.

    1. Pray Tell stands by its sources. I’m sorry that our reporting on them upsets you so much.

      We’ll work on letting go of fantasies and not being so juvenile – although I gather that it won’t affect you since you “rarely give serious consideration” to our insights.

      awr

  9. Once again the same old calumnies are being repeated at this website. 99% of the mass ordinary is the ICEL text approved by the bishops. It is objectively untrue to say that the text was “imposed” by the [cue sinister music here] Vatican or Vox Clara. I’m sure the propers, (which although we haven’t even seen yet, this blog is willing to spread unsubstantiated rumors about) will likely have a similarly high percentage being from the ICEL text. It is just a lie that this translation is not the fruit of collegial efforts by the bishops in accordance with Sacrosanctum Concilium. And of course, Sacrosanctum Concilium provides for a participatory and regulatory role to the Holy See in liturgical translations. And of course Vox Clara are English speaking bishops, but I suppose that doesn’t contribute to collegiality no, Cardinal George and his ilk are just papal stooges… I find the willingness of this blog to repeatedly misrepresent the facts in pursuit of an anti-Papal, anti-hierarchy agenda quite disappointing.

    1. Charles Goldsmith writes: “I’m sure the propers, (which although we haven’t even seen yet, this blog is willing to spread unsubstantiated rumors about) will likely have a similarly high percentage being from the ICEL text.”
      AWR: That’s funny that you’re sure of this, since you admit you haven’t seen the propers. Our sources have. Newspapers quote reliable but unnamed sources all the time, and so does Pray Tell. Here’s the point: you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      Charles Goldsmith writes: “And of course, Sacrosanctum Concilium provides for a participatory and regulatory role to the Holy See in liturgical translations.”
      Nope, ‘fraid not. Many people, eg J. Peter Nixon on this website, have established that SC gives the translation task entirely to conferences, and gives the Holy See the right to certify that the conference followed canonical procedure in their work of translation. Go read the council debates on this point (the Latin discussions have all been published). If you don’t like what SC says, that’s your business. But you won’t get away with making up what SC really says, at least not on this website.

      The US bishops approved the 1998 sacramentary by a very high margin, then Rome threw it in the wastebasket and imposed (that’s the right word – no conference was consulted about LA) new translation rules. These rules include the new right to impose translations. Guess what, every conference acquiesced to Rome. They had no choice but to give in, and they did. If this is collegiality, then the word has no meaning any more.

      But I suspect the real issue here is that any criticism of Church authority, no matter how much it is based on fact, will be rejected out of hand by some conservative, including (as we see above) the distortion of facts to defend the hierarchy. Truth is the first casualty of such ‘obedience.’ Newman would be very sad.

      awr

  10. AWR: SC does not give translation “entirely to the conferences.” How about backing that up with something a little more compelling than “J. Peter Nixon said…”

    Forget reading Council session “debates,” just read the document the Council Fathers actually approved:

    SC 22. 1. Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

    2. In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.

    SC 36.4. Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned above.

    Just in case you or anyone else is confused, the aforementioned “laws” come from the Holy See; i.e. it is entirely up to the Holy See to determine whether and to what extend to concede the regulatory power that is properly its own.

    So… who exactly is trying to “get away with making up what SC really says?”

    1. Dear Louie,
      Sorry if I wasn’t clear – I quoted J. Peter Nixon because he is one example among many of how scholars interpret Vatican II. I think 36.3 is important: “36.3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See.” Note the reference to 22.2, which is about territorial bodies of bishops and not Rome. Note that 22.1 on the authority of Rome does not refer to vernacular translations, it refers to the issuing of the official Latin books. 22.2 and 36.3 are clear that territorial bodies of bishops prepare translations. This is the view of most commentators. Also note that the debates of the council fathers are very helpful in interpreting what they wrote – although I think what they wrote about bishops doing translations is clear enough.
      Frankly, I don’t think your reading of Vatican II on this point stands up.
      awr

  11. Most commentators believe that SC states that matters of translation belong “entirely to the conferences?” Really?

    For kicks let’s just assume that’s true while setting aside for now the fact that the Holy See disagrees with this supposed majority of commentators… My question to you is, so what? Are we really supposed to believe that “interpretation by consensus” is a valid approach to an ecumenical council, even to the point of trumping the Holy See’s manner of interpretation? You can’t be serious.

    Pray tell, awr, where did you discover this fascinating ecclesiological model? It certainly doesn’t come from the Council. Let me guess… you got it from the majority of commentators? LOL! You’re digging quite a hole here, my friend.

    There is nothing ambiguous about the Council’s teaching in this regard. Regulation of the sacred liturgy belongs to the Holy See and to bishops and their bodies only to the extent that it is granted to them. You cannot point to one solitary reference in SC that says otherwise and I think you know it.

    If the best you can do in support of your assertion that liturgical translation belongs “entirely to the conferences”is urge others to parse tidbits out of the conciliar debates and claim recourse to like-minded commentators, then I rest my case.

    When all is said and done, it’s not my reading of Vatican II that you can’t accept, its the Magisterium’s reading that’s giving you trouble.

  12. Dear Louie,
    I think we all agree on the Vatican’s current position, that they have the right to edit, change, impose vernacular translations. This is clear in LA. The question is whether this is a change in position from SC. I think it clearly is, based on what SC says. In my last response I cited SC, but you ignored all of that. Could you please speak to what SC 22 and 36 say in all their provisions, instead of name-calling those you disagree with or don’t like? Instead of dismissing commentators en masse, could you look at their arguments and see why they have come to agreement? I have the impression that you would ignore what the bishops said in debate, ignore the commentators, though many of them were periti who drafted the liturgy constitution, and then ignore the parts of SC you don’t like – it’s as if you have a direct pipeline to God circumventing all the above source. I honestly don’t see a real argument in what you wrote.
    Pax,
    awr

  13. If “my friend” is name calling, I’m guilty as charged.

    Let me remind you what we’re talking about. You claim that “SC gives the translation task entirely to conferences, and gives the Holy See the right to certify that the conference followed canonical procedure in their work of translation.”

    This simply cannot be demonstrated in the Constitution itself. Period. The words of SC are plain enough.

    SC 22.1 begins with the broader statement concerning overall regulation of the sacred liturgy – it belongs “solely” to the Holy See, and to bishops as law allows. (Laws that come from where? The Holy See.)

    22.2 gets more specific re: translation. NB: “law” and “defined limits” which 22.1tells us come from the Holy See.

    You have decided that 22.1 is not really a broad statement concerning the overall regulation of the liturgy – including matters of vernacular translations – but rather one referring only to “the issuing of the official Latin books.” Where do you see that, awr? This is nothing more than wishful thinking on your part.

    It is nonsensical to say on the one hand that SC affirms the Holy See’s regulatory authority over the “official” typical editions of the liturgical books but somehow relegates Rome to the role of procedural overseer of conferences when it comes to the vernacular that is based upon that typical text. One need not read the labored arguments of those who say so in order to see that this is illogical at best.

  14. “It is nonsensical to say on the one hand that SC affirms the Holy See’s regulatory authority over the “official” typical editions of the liturgical books but somehow relegates Rome to the role of procedural overseer of conferences when it comes to the vernacular that is based upon that typical text.”
    But those who were there for the debates, and those who drafted the text, and those who wrote the first commentaries, say exactly that. There is nothing “nonsensical” about this except that you think what SC says is “nonsensical.” I’m very sorry that you dislike what SC says, or that you can’t imagine that it really says that.
    36.3 says that DECREES are approved by the Holy See – decrees that translation will happen, not the TRANSLATIONS themselves. 36.4 says that TRANSLATIONS are approved by the territorial authority mentioned above (i.e. in 36.3 which cites 22.2) This couldn’t be clearer – approval happens by territorial authorities. Nowhere does it say that the Holy See approves translations. Translation is clearly something ‘conceded’ to territorial authority. If you’re correct that 22.1 trumps everything, then why would they have bothered to write the other subsections?
    awr

  15. Even if it were the intention of some of the bishops to wrest regulatory authority away from the Holy See via the vernacular translations (and I don’t doubt that this motive existed among some), again, so what?

    The Holy See is no more bound by those nefarious intentions than God was bound by the intentions of Joseph’s brothers. In the end, the Magisterium interprets and applies the documents, not a committee… not even a group of individual Fathers.

    SC 36.3 says nothing whatsoever to diminish the Holy See’s overall authority to regulate. SC 22.2 to which it refers speaks of “power conceded… within defined limits.” Who do you think has that power to concede in the first place and then defines those limits? It is the Holy See. (SC 22.1) So how can Rome defining those limits in LA possibly be “a change in position from SC?”

    No doubt your Latin is better than mine, but 22.1 uses the word “unice” to describe the “singular” degree to which regulatory power resides in Rome – it is “unique, solitary.” SC then goes on to speak of how Rome can choose to “concede” – Latin, “concessa” – to pass along, or to give a share in that power. Concede in this case does not mean a reversal of power such that conferences now dictate to Rome.

    Charles Goldsmith was close, but properly speaking, it is the conferences who are granted a participatory role here; the Holy See still has the solitary, unique and singular regulatory power mentioned in 22.1.

  16. Louie,

    You have biases which lead you to misinterpret SC. Your starting point is that Rome has sole authority, and anything other than this is ‘nefarious.’ But SC says that authority rests withRome, the bishop, and also can be conceded to territorial bishops. This is right from the document SC as approved by the whole body of bishops, not by a few nefarious plotters. SC then says that authority for translation production and approval is conceded to territorial conferences. I wish you could grant (admit) that SC really said this. Can Rome later ‘unconcede’ this authority? I guess so, since it just happened. But let’s be honest, Rome is thereby changing the concession which all the world’s bishops had voted to be given to territorial bodies of bishops. Sure, Rome has authority to re-interpret or change the directives of Vatican II – but let’s admit that it is a change and a reinterpretation.

    Finally, I must say that I’ve found your attitude of dismissing some of the council fathers (to whom you attribute outright evil), dismissing the debates of those fathers, dismissing the commentaries of those who drafted SC – all of this is quite arrogant. You give the impression that you alone know what V2 means, not the people who wrote or approved it.

    awr

  17. “Translation is clearly something ‘conceded’ to territorial authority.”

    One way to test a conjecture is to push it to its limits and see if it stands. The Holy See may have access to resources to translate into English, Spanish and French but not into languages in which there are only a few experts in both liturgy and language. In the Philippines, where eight major languages are spoken, there are few such experts available to the bishops’ conference, let alone to the Holy See. The Vatican can deputize as its own the same persons doing the translations for the local bishops. Then the distinction between the roles of translator and approver is moot.

    Speculatively, the Holy See could have deputized ICEL as its own resource, instead of creating Vox Clara. It didn’t, because it could. In the Philippine case, it will not, because it can’t.

    Does the Vatican concede the authority to translate: 1) when it wants to, or 2) when it can’t do the translation itself?

    Is the concession of translation authority 1) a matter of practicality or 2) a matter of principle?

  18. There’s a great story about the translation of the Missal, in the 1970s, into a certain language (which those who know, will know) – a language not very widely spoken.

    It goes something like this.

    A priest, let’s call him Fr X, something of an expert in this language, was called to Rome, where for some months he painstakingly translated the Missal into the certain language, presenting the final result to the Congregation in Rome, and flying back to his parish.

    No one in the Congregation had a clue about the certain language, nor any idea about how to get Fr X’s work ‘checked’ so his translation was shelved (remember there was no urgent need for the translation into this certain language, it was just one of the languages into which they thought the Missal should be translated.

    Years passed. All the Congregation staff from those days had moved on, retired or died.

    One day, a new Congregation official found the translation on a dusty shelf, and showed it to a religious sister in Rome whom he knew had some knowledge of the certain language. The sister put him in touch with a priest from her home country, who was an expert in the certain language.

    The priest was asked to come to Rome to assess the accuracy of Fr X’s translation. He did so, and gave it a fulsome approval before returning back home.

    The approving priest? Of course, the same Fr X.

  19. I’m told that one bishop was so happy that the Vatican had approved the translation into his little-used language with non-Western script that he didn’t have the heart to tell the informing curial official that he was holding the translation text upside down while he praised it.
    awr

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