No, the claims of 10,000 changes to the missal text aren’t being modified downward. If anything, the number will probably go up when we discover that the final text shows further slight fiddling with an already fiddled-with text. I leave to someone else the tedious (but important) work of documenting and tallying that.
The title of this post refers to this: In an interesting article in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, Msgr. Moroney points out that “about 7,000 individuals ranging from bishops to poets and musicians have been involved in the revisions” leading to the final text of the newly translated English missal.
7,000 is a lot of people. Let no one think that this translation was completed by a small conspiracy of 3 or 4 people, or by a blue ribbon commission of 30 or 40 people. Let no one think that the work was done only by members of the hierarchy, with no involvement from lay people. Let no one think that the Holy See or national episcopal conferences or individual bishops did not consult with others along the way. Lots of people from lots of countries with lots of differing levels of authority created this translation.
There are about 90 million Catholics in English-speaking regions. The 7,000 collaborators, then, represent about 0.000 78 % of the total. Or, since we’re dealing with rough estimates, let’s suppose it’s only 75 million English-speaking Catholics but 7,500 collaborators. That brings us to 0.001 % direct involvement. The defense of the process is getting stronger now.
I realize that translating is highly specialized work that can’t be carried about by tens of millions of people. A subcommittee with, say, 10,000 members around the table is unwieldy. When a parish needs a composer for a commissioned anthem, or a lawyer for a legal defense, the pastor goes to a specialist. The whole parish doesn’t compose the choral piece or prepare the legal documents.
True enough. We need competence for a good translation, and that requires the selection of experts. Not everyone can or should do the translation.
But as much as possible, everyone needs to use and accept the translation. It is difficult to see how the Body of Christ can be built up otherwise.
We lack buy-in on the new translation because of the way in which collaborators and consultants, however numerous, are engaged. Engagement is top-down and by invitation only. At each level of authority, the people on top select which people from below to invite. (Think for a second of those excluded from involvement in principle on the upcoming missal because they were tainted by having worked on the 1997 translation.) In our system, only when the translation is a done deal is it unveiled officially to 99.999 22 % of the church. (Or, to put out the more favorable estimate, to 99.999 %.)
I recently heard Paul Westermeyer at Luther Seminary speak on the reception of the new hymnal/worship book Evangelical Lutheran Worship by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Lutherans can be very attached to their hymns, and altering the denominational hymnal is a political minefield. But they did it, and it worked. By and large, the new book is being accepted and welcomed by the broad middle of the church, albeit with some inevitable grousing from the more extreme innovators or conservators.
Specialists did the work in the Lutheran process. But their work – draft liturgical texts, draft service music, draft hymn lists – was made public to 100% of the church membership at every stage. The specialists were open at every stage to comments and suggestions from 100% of the church membership. Most importantly, 100% of the church membership was given a vote in the election of the delegates who gave final approval to the worship book. Direct involvement in the process was necessarily limited to the few, but delegated involvement was open in principle to “the many” –meaning, here as elsewhere, all the people, 100%.
I’m not proposing that we Catholics become Lutheran, or that we adopt in toto the policies and procedures of them or any other Christian body. Nor am I suggesting (please note, would-be commenters) that we should all vote on the Trinity or the ordination of women or any other doctrine. I’m talking about how we prepare liturgical translations.
Our system doesn’t seem to be working as well as it could. It seems unlikely that our new English missal will be accepted and welcomed by the broad middle of the Church. At best it will be tolerated, put up with, endured.
Our Church has had many different organizational structures since the first century. It will be interesting to see how our structures continue to evolve, drawing on models from earlier periods in our history, and perhaps carefully developing new models to meet our needs under changed conditions.
Our newly translated missal might turn out to be a helpful prod in that process. Even if its implementation doesn’t go very well. Especially if its implementation doesn’t go very well.
P.S. Since we’re talking about statistics, here would be an important one: the number of people who hijacked our translation at the last stage and did the massive rewrite. 3? 4? more? They’re not telling us, so we’re still waiting for the full truth to leak out. Even if it is, say, 5 people, that would still only be a percentage of the total English-speaking Catholic Church of… oh, never mind.