Bishop chairman of ICEL: missal is “work in progress”

John Ainslie, respected scholar and musician, honorary chairman of the Society of St. Gregory in the British Isles, reports on recent correspondence between the society and Bishop Arthur Roche, bishop chairman of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL):

For the record, the SSG [Society of Saint Gregory] trustees at their meeting on November 27 agreed to my suggestion that I should write to Bishop Roche expressing our “concern” at the amendments being made by the Congregation to the ICEL translation. I duly wrote to him, adding that “if the cause of ‘only the best for the liturgy’ entails a further delay in the implementation of a new translation of the entire Missal in England and Wales beyond Advent 2011, so be it.”

Bishop Roche has just replied as follows (emphasis PT):

Thank you very much indeed for your letter and for the support you give to the work of ICEL.

This is still work in progress, as you may well know, and we shall have to see how it all concludes.

Please be assured of my very best wishes to you and your family and indeed to the Society at this time of year.

Hmm, this strikes me as rather more tentative than was the carefully worded statement released by Bishop Serratelli after the November plenary meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.



  1. “this is still work in progress”

    …then what did Pope Benedict receive on 28th April 2010 and what was he told? Will they all have another lunch when it’s really, finally, ultimately finished at last?

    Or is this an acknowledgement by the ICEL chair that Vox Clara made a mistake?

    as you may well know

    No, we don’t know, not officially. Is the ICEL chair stating that an unfinished work will be taken into use in the USA and elsewhere next Advent? Does Cardinal George know, or did he make a mistake too by prematurely announcing the date?

    and we shall have to see how it all concludes”

    Oh dear, a disappointing, very passive statement from the ICEL chair; is he telling us that he’s not in control of events?

    1. If Benedict XVI in fact DID recieve something on April 28,2010. If this ‘revealed’ text is real, then it would seem to me that those texts are the revisions that the CDWS made after they gave the in recognitio to the original 2008 text. So he probably received the revisions to the 2008 text, right?

      1. Tim and all,

        The conferences approved various segments of the missal in various years – e.g. 2007, 2008, 2009. No, the Gray Book is not meant as a final text – it never has been. Conferences are always free to make ammendments to it. Some made a few amendments, some made none. The problem is that the Vox Clara small group began butchering the text BEFORE the conferences had approved the whole missal. Some of the VC group’s work is based on the earlier Green Book, ignoring the conference’s consultation which went into producing the Gray Book.

        Legally, as everyone recognizes, the CDW makes the final decision – although according to Bishop Dunn and other canonists, the CDW doesn’t have the right to impose texts, only to modify and approve texts. (It’s a judgment call when a revision is so substantial that it becomes a new, imposed text.)

        Even if we grant that the CDW’s massive revisions are legal, there is the question of whether their procedures were very collegial or Christian. Our Lord called us all to a high standard of not lording it over, of serving and not being served. I personally believe that the CDW’s way of acting has not been very Christian or faithful to the Gospel, which is partly why there is so much rancor and ill will now. My personal judgment is that the CDW is not building up the Church. If this continues, it will be tragic. I would hope for a way to build up the church in unity and peace, and to bring as many as possible into consensus on reformed and improved texts.

        I hate to see bishops and Vatican officials be legally correct on paper by imposing their authority with force, with the result that they have less and less real authority because the broad middle doesn’t think they’re credible.


      2. It’s (according to Bishop Roche) a “work in progress” – whatever the Pope reeceived was therefore NOT what the Vox Clara press release said it was.

        What your question comes down to is this, Tim: who was/is lying (the most) – the Congregation’s Vox Clara, or Bishop Roche’s new ICEL?

        Given that the new ICEL does the dirty work of firing people like Canon Alan Griffiths on behalf of the Congregation, it hardly matters – the two have virtually become one.

      3. None of the eleven conferences (the US isn’t the only conference!) in ICEL had finished voting on the proposed texts (“Grey Books”) when Vox Clara in September 2009 began revising texts that the bishops had not yet voted on. Some conferences did not finish their voting until early this year. Even if you could read SC 36, 4 in the most restrictive sense, this just doesn’t add up.

    2. Jeremy Stevens :

      Looks like it’s going to be lump it for a lot of people. What if Vox Clara and the Congregation published a Missal so bad that people just started changing texts at will as they went along?

      That’s happening now.

  2. Well remember someone posted here on Pray Tell that Bishop Roche was in Rome at the same time Vox Clara had their luncheon with the Pope and he was kind of blatantly NOT invited. Like it was also posted on here the whole project is beginning to sound like politics and payback against ICEL done by people with more ambition than ability. Really stinks to have the most important liturgy book of the Church as a pawn in people’s power plays. Bad attitude has led to bad results. And the priests and people are just supposed to take this messed up final product of a messed up process and because these church politicians have the power to impose it say oh no problem it’s from the Holy See and so it must be inspired by the Holy Spirit. I can’t believe Pope Benedict wouldn’t be furious to find out that the collaboration he praised in that speech in England was undermined by some of the people who presented the book to him at that luncheon. Who was there anyhow? Has someone who reads this blog got there names so we can know who they are and how they got on Vox Clara and what there agendas are.

  3. I don’t think one should read too much into what was a brief personal acknowledgement of correspondence.

    Is Bishop Roche, as chairman of ICEL, putting up some resistance to being rushed into accepting the Congregation’s reworking of ICEL texts? One would hope so. I may be an optimist by nature, but that is the interpretation of “work in progress” and “we shall have to see how it all concludes” that I am hanging onto. To date, there has been no official announcement for England & Wales about the receipt of Missal texts from Rome – not even re- the Order of Mass.

    1. I am informed that England & Wales have indeed received the supposedly final E&W text of the Order of Mass, but have not announced it yet. That could be prudent in the circumstances, given that the altar missal for E&W also has to do duty for Scotland and Australia.

      US publishers received their final text of the Order of Mass from BCDW last week, but had not received the rest of the Missal as of Tuesday December 21.

      1. Is there a novena we might pray for a substantial delay in delivering the rest of the text? I’m surmising that most of the Catholic publishers don’t own their own printing houses, and thus will have to wait in line to get these new books manufactured. . .and the longer the line, the better, in my opinion.

  4. Well, good for Ainslie for making the inquiry!

    I guess I’m out of the loop here because somehow I was under the impression that the final has been delivered to all Bishops. Guess not!

    1. Maybe some publishers are getting “lesser” treatment becuase they are perceived by Rome/the Congregation/ICEL/the Bishops to have told too much truth about the hijacking of the Bishops’ translation by Vox Clara . . . oh no, surely not . . .

  5. Let no one be surprised about anything Bishop Roche might say, do or fail to say or do about this awful process (and result).

    On his website it’s impossible to get (even though it is offered) his Christmas homily from 2006. Someone who was there for both occasions thinks thae reason is that it bore a striking resemblance to the 2005 Christmas homily of the then Archbishop of Birmingham.

    Further, when The Tablet, years back, ran a “leak” of a draft of Roche’s new ICEL’s secret “Order of Mass” and received an avalanche of correspondence against the translation, but none in favour of it, Roche called some very influential English clergy, among them a Canon of Westminster, asking them to write letters to The Tablet praising the translation. They dutifully did, even though they’d never seen it.

    Roche infamously told the US Bishops, gathered, I think, in San Francisco, a few years back, that if they continued to buck against his translation and did not vote to approve the ICEL “gray book” Rome would impose it anyway – well, they stopped bucking, caved in and voted for it, and the last few months have shown that Roche was wrong – very wrong – on that score too.

    Bishop Roche does not want, or intend, to die as Bishop of Leeds, and he knows what Vox Clara’s done to the work of his new ICEL, so it must be hard for him to say as little as he did in his reply to the Society of Saint Gregory, but no doubt the prospect of a pallium and a one-way ticket out of Leeds makes it worthwhile not to have told the whole truth – no matter what, he’ll not annoy the people in Rome.

    As for his having been locked out of the Vox Clara lunch with the Pope when they presented a “work in progress” (God but I would LOVE to get a hold of that useless book, with all its ribbons, gold-edged pages, gold-embossed-on-white-leather papal coat-of-arms and absolutely unapproved texts!), it could not have happened to a more appropriate person.

    Wouldn’t it be grand to know what Bishop Roche and Monsignor Harbert (who dropped in to this blog the other day to comment on the subject of Canon Alan Griffiths’ sacking but quickly disappeared when asked some questions about how he felt about Canon Griffiths’ treatment by the Congregation and the new ICEL) really think of all this!

      1. Looks like it’s going to be lump it for a lot of people. What if Vox Clara and the Congregation published a Missal so bad that people just started changing texts at will as they went along?

  6. News Item: Pilot who blows whistle on lax TSA airport security not thanked for his honesty but suspended.

    Hey, just like the Church!

  7. Work on the full Missal has been completed by ICEL. Any further stages are now in the hands of the conferences, customarily through their liturgy secretariats. National propers are, of course, the responsibility of the individual conferences.

    Do the changes imposed by CDWDS/Vox Clara remain? It appears that many, though not all, do.

  8. …and we shall have to see how it all concludes.

    Such statements are usually used in a situation where the speaker knows the outcome already, but is not free to say so, and thus tells the listener “we (meaning YOU) will have to see how it all concludes”. I wouldn’t read this at all as meaning that he is unaware of what is going on.

    1. Thanks to wikiwhatever we can see just what was approved by the conferences and where the Vox Clara hatchet fell and, one of the funniest things, one version of the postcommunion on Monday of the First Week of Advent and the older version of the same prayer on Thursday. Guess Monsignor Reviser was cutting and pasting so fast he got messed up.

  9. I still have my doubts about these alleged conspiracies. We do not know if the person who posted any of this on WikiSpooks is trustworthy. The language of the email actually sounds like it could have come from the folks over at “What if We Just Said Wait” who seem to want to do anything to forestall something that really needed to happen yesterday.

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