A Pray Tell reader writes in with a question about the missal translation controversy. She received assurance from the diocesan liturgy office yesterday that everything is on track. The diocesan liturgy office said, among other things, that the Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) in Rome incorporated the suggestions of national bishops’ conferences along with its own improvements, as it always does, to create the final approved text of the missal. The liturgy office went on to say that this final text is undergoing only minor editorial corrections – punctuation, standardization, that sort of thing – so that it is ready for press.
The reader wants to know how all this squares with the reporting of Pray Tell and other news sources.
First of all, Pray Tell stands 100% behind everything it has reported so far. We do our level best to convey the facts, and to report the truth with Christian honesty and integrity. In doing this we believe we are serving the Church and our Lord.
If anything Pray Tell reports is shown to be inaccurate, we will gladly and immediately correct it. We welcome any further information, including more leaks if they come, if this provides a clearer picture of the true story.
On to the issue at hand. There are two claims to pursue here: first, that the CDW’s granting of final approval (recognitio) was a routine procedure; second, that there is only one version of the final text, and any changes to it are minor.
1. The CDW’s “Routine” Approval of the Final Text of the Missal
Some sources have claimed that the CDW produced the final text in an entirely unremarkable manner. The changes to the text made by the CDW result mostly from the suggestions or amendments submitted by national bishops’ conferences, but of course the CDW reserves the right to introduce its own improvements as well before granting recognitio (approval).
Last July Pray Tell broke the story that the final CDW text has some 10,000 changes compared to the text which the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) gave to the conferences for their submission (with any of their amendments) to Rome. This was substantiated when Pray Tell published four articles by “Xavier Rindfleisch” (part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4) comparing the ICEL text and the CDW-approved text. It became apparent to everyone that massive changes, changes of the sort you would not expect to come from national conferences, had been made. Pray Tell has a copy of a letter not made public in which one senior official expresses his alarm to another senior official at the extent (10,000 is explicitly stated) and the poor quality of the changes in the CDW final version.
It would take some tricky mathematics to come up with thousands and thousands of amendments from the national conferences. We read in the online BCDW newsletter of November, 2009, for example, that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) proposed a total of 48 modifications to the Commons, 76 to the Proper of Saints, and 0 to the Supplement. This refers to three sections of the missal, out of ten sections in all. Other national conferences perhaps made similar numbers of suggestions, or perhaps fewer. Some of their suggestions may have coincided with those made by the USCCB. A Bishop from one country told me that his conference approved “whatever amendments the US made” – the Bishops didn’t even ask to see them before voting to ratify them! – because they would be buying their liturgical books anyway from the US. Some conferences are known to have offered no amendments to the ICEL text. At least one conference received the Order of Mass text with recognitio from Rome, though it had not yet submitted its text to Rome for approval!
It seems, then, that you can scrape together all possible amendments from national conferences and still probably have at least 8,000 or 9,000 changes left over. Pray Tell stands behind its report that someone or some group (we believe from Vox Clara) made massive changes of its own, with no consultation of national conferences, before the CDW approved the final text.
An internal report outlining the problems in the CDW final text was prepared by someone last summer, and it is leaked here. Excerpts from the CDW-approved text are leaked here – these are excerpts from the “Received Text” which officials of the CDW and Vox Clara presented to Pope Benedict XVI on April 28, 2010. All these leaks corroborate Pray Tell’s reporting.
As further corroboration, Pray Tell has this excerpt of an email from the person charged with doing the musical revisions made necessary by the massive textual changes in the CDW text. (It is ICEL’s policy to keep confidential the names of translators and composers.) This email was sent August 24, 2010, at 10:15 am.
I’m making good progress revising the chant settings of the prefaces but the situation is pretty bad, I’m discovering. In fact I was moved to shed tears this morning at how awful these texts are. We have B-cadences like “authority of Christ crucified” (Passion I), with two accents in a row. I see no acceptable solution, and all three of my solutions are awful. Then we have “in Christ is celebrated” (Passion II), which also cannot possibly work satisfactorily with that awful accent pattern on the final word.
I think I know the answer to this, but I’ll ask it anyway. Is there any way these wretched texts can be revised? Is there any possibility of appeal to the Roman authorities? …
I’m sure the revisers didn’t have music in mind at all, but their revisions which oftentimes don’t follow the syntax of the Latin, or add or omit words from the Latin, repeatedly make the musical setting difficult. If they had had the goal of wrecking the music (and I don’t think they did), they couldn’t have done so much better.
2. “Minor Editing” of the Final Text
Now that portions of the final text (the Received Text of April 28) have been leaked, anyone can easily verify any changes made to it. The final text of the Order of Mass (available here) has, for example, a different wording for “Through him, and with him, and in him…” than the April 28 Received Text – see leak #3, page 549 of the Received Text. Obviously the CDW made this change to the final text after April 28.
There is little doubt that the CDW will make, or already has made, further changes to the April 28 Received Text. These will not be minor editorial changes, but changes of wording to correct the problems in the final text. It will be easy for anyone to check, when the missal comes out, how many further changes have been made to the Received Text. Pray Tell has it on good word that the prefaces, examined in the leaked internal report and referred to in the above email of August 24, will appear with corrections to the “final” version of April 28.
One can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim in one breath that the leaked internal report is untrustworthy because it refers to an earlier final version, and then claim in the next breath that no substantial changes have been made or will be made to the final version.
The day we get our printed missals, we will not have forgotten about the leaked report. This report provides a very extensive list of specific problems in the Received Text. It will be easy to look up in our missals every single text mentioned in the report. There will be only two options: either our missal text has been changed to address the problem in the report, or it has not been changed. If the missal text has been changed, this will show that the final text indeed did undergo textual revision. If the missal text has not been changed, this will show that it is an unsatisfactory text because someone didn’t respond to the problem pointed out in the report.
So far the online reaction to the leaked Received Text has been roundly negative. We do not yet know how many of the problems in the final text approved by the CDW will be corrected before our missals get printed. But instead of hearing reassurances that there is only one final text and it is not changing, it would be far more reassuring to hear that the CDW is changing the final text it already approved.
I suppose we really don’t need to know who made the 10,000 changes, why they did it, or how the CDW ever came to approve such a thing. But a lot of folks sure are curious.
Let us hope for complete honesty from everyone involved. Eighth Commandment, and all that.