ICEL sidelines priest who criticized Missal changes: The Tablet

Pray Tell reported yesterday that “some experts have been eliminated from the preparation of liturgical books because of their criticism of the missal translation project.” Today’s online Tablet (subscription required) reveals the name of the translator sacked: Fr. Alan Griffiths of Portsmouth Diocese, UK.

A priest who worked on the new English version of the liturgy but publicly criticized the way last-minute changes were made to the new Missal has been sacked by the body in charge of the new translation. … Fr. Alan Griffiths has been told by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), that he will not be asked to do any more work for them.

Fr. Griffiths, a respected translator, became critical of the final text approved by Rome when he became aware of how different it was from the text approved by the bishops of England and Wales. He guesses that ICEL acted because of his letter to The Tablet (Pray Tell report here) in which he wrote:

This latest revision drives a coach and horses through the guidelines contained in Liturgiam Authenticam, the 2000 document of the Holy See on how to translate liturgical prayers into the vernacular. Secondly, many of the changes are simply not correct English.My fear is that the whole process will be made to look ridiculous.

On December 6th Fr. Griffiths posted at Pray Tell:

Whenever we begin using the 2010 version, there seems to be emerging a view that eventually it will have to be substantially revised.

The Tablet reports,

A spokesman for ICEL said he did not wish to comment on the matter.


  1. As revealed by me yesterday in this thread:
    See post #5.

    A great shame that faithful disagreement is rewarded in this way, and that those who were disobedient for decades were rewarded differently….

    One theory in the rumor mill suggests that ICEL has taken this action under intense pressure from CDWDS. Another theory suggests that ICEL has taken this action of its own initiative in order to try and rehabilitate itself with CDWDS. Either of those possibilities does not leave a very pleasant taste in the mouth.

    1. This event is similar to what happened to those who were publicly unhappy with the reforms in the late 1960s.

      1. Helena – do you mean to say that this is bad, like that was? Or do you you evaluate the two events differently? I’m not sure what point you mean to make by your comparison.

      2. I mean that this is the inevitable result of papal action in producing a reformed 1969 missal in the first place.

  2. I wish I was surprised. This is so short sighted and immature, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

  3. One theory in the rumor mill suggests that ICEL has taken this action under intense pressure from CDWDS.

    Umhh.. wouldn’t it be a “rumor” from the rumor mill? Really though… this seems so obvious as to not require much convincing. Why else would ICEL take such an action?

    Remember though that one man’s “faithful disagreement” is another man’s disobedience. ICEL gives an individual the opportunity to work on such projects… does it not have the right to take such opportunity away when it has it’s hand bitten?

    1. “its hand bitten”?

      Is that what you would call Father Griffiths’ pointing out that the anonymous tinkers, not ICEL, had themselves been disobedient to the Holy See’s translation directives (as well as their having demonstrated a deficient understanding of the rules governing the English language)?

      Honesty and integrity in an evaluation following decades (literally) of liturgical, educational and pastoral work for the Church, including numerous workshops to prepare the priests for the new translation (bishops happy to have him, by the way, to “bring the men on board” with the new translation) . . . all that equals “biting the hand”?

      That’s a very odd interpretation, Jeffrey.

  4. “ICEL gives an individual the opportunity to work on such projects… does it not have the right to take such opportunity away when it has it’s hand bitten.”

    Yes it does, but it still leaves an unpleasant taste as PI says. Any organisation must expect whistleblowing and silence is reprehensible (though understandable) where wrong is being done. The Church would have benefitted from more whistleblowing in the past as we are all aware.

  5. I suppose we will just have to rely upon Wikileaks to provide us with the full story of what led to the firing of Fr. Griffiths and what role, if any, the CDW played in it.

  6. Xavier (or whatever your name is…)

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’d call it. The problem comes when particular individuals see themselves as “internal opposition” rather than as part of the “team” …. a team which includes those pesky tinkerers you speak of. Do you really think the Holy See is unaware of the process and the results? Do you really think that they are unaware of the so-called “conflicts” with LA? I think that we can assume that the translation we end up with is the translation that “they” want us to have, and so we might instead put our energies towards the question of WHY is it what it is.

    This is not some corporation where a “whistleblower” has an obligation to come forward about violations of the law…. in this case, the “corporation” is making the laws, so what is there to come forward about? Or are you simply miffed because they don’t have to follow their own rules when they want to?

    1. +JMJ+

      the so-called “conflicts” with LA … violations of the law

      I don’t know if I could say “so-called ‘conflicts’ with LA” based on the examples from the 2010 text I’ve seen. The “corporation” has indeed made the law — LA and the RT — and now we will be getting a translation that, from time to time, ignores both of them. That is a whistle-blower situation.

    2. “Do you really think the Holy See is unaware of the process and the results?”

      Which results do you mean: the mistranslations of the Latin, some of which display the old ICEL’s discomfort with theological terms (some of them, since the days of the old ICEL, defined and expounded in the Catechism, e.g., “vices” continually changed to “faults”)? the butchering of English syntax and grammar? the introduction of items not in the Latin (the several “I believes” inserted into the Creed) and the removal of elements that are? the wholesale abandonment of the Vulgate base text for the antiphons with the consequent loss of “Christological coherence” (see the “Areas of Difficulty”)? I’m not so sure about “the Holy See,” Jeffrey, but I suspect the Holy Father hasn’t been made aware of the extent to which those he entrusted with this work have botched it up.

      Meanwhile, every one who knows Father Alan Griffiths (and, by the way, in this ecclesiastical world where titles are so important, perhaps we should remind everyone that he is CANON Alan Griffiths) knows that, in scholarship and integrity, he stands head and shoulders above the careerists and sycophants who have done him in . . . first and foremost among them the not only pesky but anonymous tinkerers who have provided us with the 2010 debacle.

      But by all means, page the various Monsignori among them, in Rome, the UK and the USA: you’ve an able defender in Jeffrey Herbert, not necessarily of the mess you’ve made, mind you (throws a monkeywrench even into the authentic update, I’d wager), but of your absolute, nay authoritative right to make that mess, no questions asked, no critiques tolerated.

    3. Remember what hapened to Fr Somerville of ICEL way back in the 1960’s. He publicly rebuked what his own ICEL committee did to the Roman canon now still in use until Advent 2011.
      I don’t think ICEL retained his services for long, despite this Canadian priests credentials.

  7. Yes the corporation is making the laws; the problem is that fewer and fewer people are obeying them or even considering them relevant. Those at the centre do not seem to understand that a translation that is very appropriate for learned theologians and Latin scholars may not be so appropriate for the person in the pew, even after they have been ‘educated’.

    The authority issue will be very hard to resolve. The model of “Pope down” is ingrained and thought to be the only way. This is a historical form of government that served many organisations well. However, times have changed and the Church is failing to get its messages across. If the present way is what the Church needs, then I suspect we are heading for a situation where the Church becomes a ‘faithful remnant,’ ‘in the world but not of it.’

    Spiritual power and influence diminish in proportion to the number of people who reject that power. IMHO we are in the business of spreading the good news to as many as possible.

    I’ll be backing the new translation with sadness in my heart.

  8. …. And just to make something clear: I’m not saying that this is some kind of hierarchical authority set up by Jesus himself to assure good translations of the missal… but the situation is rather like a parent and a contrary child…the child may have very good, even very well founded reasons to complain. The parent may be acting irrationally or even irresponsibly… but even so, the childs imagining that they are somehow in a position to voice their objections is founded on a false assumption that they are in some way “equals” …. That’s only gonna happen if and when the parent decides it is so. In the meantime, the child gets reprimanded… perhaps a “time out” to contemplate their relationship to their parents. Parents can be good and generous, but they very often have reasons for their actions that remain totally unknown to the child.

    1. Jeffrey, you have summed it up very well. ICEL is very much treating Fr Griffiths like a child, resorting to authority rather than listening to expertise and experience.

      That is what everyone is complaining about. Translation should be done by skill and expertise, not by authoritative dictates.

    2. Hey Jim, don’t go acting so grown up! Our buddy Jeffrey is just the type of Catholic the guys at ICEL, Vox Clara, and the Congregation are counting on. Pray, pay, obey. Show up, pay up, shut up. Who cares about all the politics and double dealing behind closed doors? Not folks like Jeffrey. Nope, as long as the people abusing their authority are dressed in the right uniforms and equipped with the right titles, Jeff’s all for whatever they hand down. Sit up straight, boys and girls, be quiet and do what Sister says. Let’s all pretend it’s 1955 again.

      1. Jeremy said: “Sit up straight, boys and girls, be quiet and do what Sister says. Let’s all pretend it’s 1955 again.”

        Or 1974…the authority that gave us the existing translation can give us this one too or you bring the whole post V2 renewal into question.

      2. Helena, you don’t get my point at all. I’m in favor of a new translation but one that follows the guidelines the Holy See issued like Liturgiam authenticam and the Ratio translationis and not this 2010 version that comes from anonymous people changing the 2008 in ways that violate those guidelines. See I thought the good guys were in charge now. Guess not. Anyhow I can tell from your postings that you’re against the whole Vatican II liturgy anyhow so what do you care.

      3. Where did I say I’m against the V2 liturgy? If I were it really would not matter since there are two forms to the Roman liturgy.

    3. “…The parent may be acting irrationally or even irresponsibly… but even so, the childs imagining that they are somehow in a position to voice their objections is founded on a false assumption that they are in some way “equals”…”

      I can’t believe you can even imagine using such an analogy after what we have learned from the abuse scandals.

      Children ARE equal in dignity, and deserving of equal respect as adults.

      Haven’t you read the stories? Over and over again, children who told of being abused (and you can talk about “irresponsible” adult behavior and forget all this?) were told to keep quiet; they were disbelieved and punished. Father was supposedly above suspicion and the child branded as a liar. Untold damage resulted. We are still paying the price.

      But now, to the point. Paternalism exercised toward adults is just plain inappropriate. It has disappeared from the medical profession. It has disappeared from the legal profession. It has disappeared from international relations with the demise of colonialism. No good reason exists for keeping it alive in the Church, and keeping it alive allows for much injustice, dishonesty and exploitation.

      An appeal to the idea that ecclesiastical authorities “have reasons for their actions” that are beyond us looks more like ideological cover for either having no reasons, or self-interested ones.

  9. Helena said Remember what hapened to Fr Somerville of ICEL way back in the 1960’s. He publicly rebuked what his own ICEL committee did to the Roman canon now still in use until Advent 2011.
    I don’t think ICEL retained his services for long, despite this Canadian priests credentials.

    As a matter of fact, Stephen had a bad breakdown and was not entirely responsible for his actions at the time, so there was no question of anyone retaining his services. And it was at least in the 1970s if not the 1980s, not the ’60s. I met and worked with him in the late 60s and early 70s, and he was showing signs of instability then; but the breakdown came later. He didn’t work for ICEL as such, but was at one stage a member of their Advisory Committee.

    In the aftermath of his illness, he became a fervent Tridentinist, and also (I believe) personal chaplain to Mel Gibson.

  10. Xavier;

    You seem very bitter about things that are apparently out of your control… That’s a very unhappy way to live. I wouldn’t pretend to be a defender of anyone though, particularly not any “Monsignori”… Nor would I ever pretend to be their better. My point is that I really don’t understand what exactly is this “voice” that so many feel they should be given in such matters.

    Furthermore, I doubt that I am the kind of Catholic that anyone would want to hold up as a model. I look to the Church to guide and teach me, and generally leave the “being Church” to those who are given that role for real. Perhaps you are such an individual. If so I apologize and will pray for you as I try to for all Church authority.

  11. Xavier is right. This particular parent-child view of authority in the Church – where, for example, Father is right, however “irrational” or “irresponsible” (or unjust or perverse) he might be – has already made possible far worse abominations and scandals than we are presently discussing. Accept this and you accept anything: defect processes giving rise to defective products and good men and women (and children) being thrown aside by others’ fear and pride.

  12. Jeremy;

    Your use of terms like “behind closed doors” would seem to assume that such decisions, actions or whatever are naturally supposed to take place out in the open with everyone’s input and approval. That has never been the case in the Catholic Church, nor in any Church as far as I am aware. I imagine it would be an unmitigated disaster if tried. And why is any decision made which you have disagreement with characterized as corrupt? That seems like a defensive posture, much like making ad hominem attacks against people whose ecclesiology might disagree with your own.

  13. See earlier post about the 1998 process dating back to the mid1980’s. Read the detailed steps that were taken; the outreach, involvement, and practiced levels that gave input, made corrections, and then had second/third/fourth reviews. And all of this is and was an open process; documented; can be found in each conferences’ of bishops, etc.

    Compare that to the chaos of 2008 to 2010. No comparison….

    Compare the large number of liturgists, translators, linguists, scripture scholars, theologians who were involved by the ICEL and their numerous sub-groups – e.g. music, composers, etc. – compare to 2008 to 2010 – no comparison.

    You can find all of the major players in the first ICEL and their sub-groups. Compare to the second ICEL (of what’s left of it)….secrets (because VOX CLARA changed the rules)….

    None of these facts are “defensive”…..nor do they have anything to do with ecclesiology except by remote extension.

    you will have a difficult time supporting your comments of 12/18 at 5:13 PM.

  14. It’s worth remembering that ICEL is a commission of Bishops’ Conferences, and is regulated by statutes approved by the Holy See. It isn’t an independent body. Expecting ICEL to ‘stand up to’ the CDWDS is a bit like asking civil servants to rebel against their government.

    1. It’s also worth remembering that regulation of ICEL by statutes approved by the Holy See is only comparatively recently the case. Some at CDWDS couldn’t stomach the fact that ICEL was in fact an independent entity, responsible only to Bishops’ Conferences and not to the Congregation, which is one reason why Liturgiam Authenticam was written. The past ten years have been all about power, not pastoral need.

      I also reflect on the fact that what normally happens when civil servants want to rebel against their government is that they succeed in undermining or even sabotaging their masters’ initiatives. We don’t actually know that anything like this has been happening, of course. Indeed, the ‘masters’ seem to be quite capable of sabotaging themselves!

      1. Well, self-sabotage is the usual course of affairs. Something that Rome suually accounts for in its practical use of its powers. Excessive centralization, like excessive localisation, runs as much risk of this, unless one has magical views about how the Holy Spirit intercedes in disciplinary matters.

      2. We would have to accept your premise to agree with your dramatic conclusion Paul. Many Catholics see LA filling a real pastoral need.

    2. I hope the comparison between the Church and secular governments is only “bitty.” Which isn’t to say that in many governments the prime expertise resides in career civil servants and notably less in political appointees.

      Msgr Harbert, we do expect a basic level of competence. When that competence is lacking don’t you think we have the potential for great harm? Nobody’s talking rebellion here, only qualified expertise butting heads with bureaucratic self-interest. A Luke 22:25 moment if there ever was one, or will 2010 be a third denial, after 2008 and 1998?

    3. But Monsignor, civil servants usually have families to support and careers to think of, but the clergy who work at ICEL don’t have families to support and SURELY ARE NOT CAREERISTS – none of those ICEL priests or monsignors would be “jobless” if they went back and worked in parishes, especially in the current worldwide priest shortage. I bet no one from the Congregation is holding a gun at their heads making them fire the bullet at Canon Griffiths – they are free to leave and tell the Congregation to fire it instead. And if ICEL really is “a commission of Bishops’ Conferences” surely ICEL should answer to the Bishops and not some priest in the Congregation? What do you think, Monsignor?

    4. Bruce, you worked with Canon Griffiths for eight years or more, and you know, better than anyone else, of his work on behalf of the translation in workshops throughout the United Kingdom; that is, you know both his competence and integrity: what do YOU think of the treatment afforded him by Rome? No longer as ICEL’s executive director, Bruce, but at a more basic level: as a Christian and as a man?

      And while we’re at it: what do you think of Rome’s transformation of the “Gray book” into the 2010 Received Text?

      Now you’ve decided to “enter the fray” your perspective on all of this will be an invaluable contribution to the discussion.

  15. Bill DeHaas…

    You go to great lengths to point out all of this wondrous cooperation and input to the 1998 translation. And what happened to that translation? Would you be able to say that said process “worked”? In the end, the ’98 translation is a footnote, and the 2010 “debacle” as you call it, is the one which will be implemented. So again I ask…. how can this be held up as “the way things are done”? It seems to be a failed approach, albeit well intended.

    1. Jeffrey,

      You know as well as anyone else here that it didn’t work, and the translation became footnote, because of political carryings-on in Rome, not because of any defect in the process itself (which was far more consultative than anything we have seen since). History will show that those who try to pretend otherwise have buried their heads in the sand.

    2. Hey Jeff, if you think 1998 was a failed approach, looks like you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! Here comes 2010! And the funny thing is, looks like the same gang that did in 1998 are the same ones that did in 2008. Only now there’s the Internet with its blogs and WikiSpooks with its leaks and fewer and fewer people like you who just say “Yes Father or Monsignor or Bishop or Cardinal! How high?” At least you’ll never be out of work in this lousy economy. A good Yes Man is hard to find!

  16. Helena wrote: “We would have to accept your premise to agree with your dramatic conclusion Paul. Many Catholics see LA filling a real pastoral need.”

    A shame that those who took their hatchets to 2008 and turned it into 2010 declined to observe its directives . . . and then got the recognitio for their debacle. Oh well, maybe better luck next time around.

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