Paul Turner and Dewfall

Following up on Timothy’s report from the Southwest Liturgical Conference, Paul Turner has posted up his talk from the conference (PDF) on the role of catechesis in preparing for the reception of new texts. It’s a nice little review of the development of EP II, and he highlights three particular words and phrases that will require more catechesis before and after their first use: “merit,” “many,” and “dewfall.” After reading this, I’m (cautiously) hopeful and more encouraged to keep catechizing on what is good in our liturgical texts and to keep pointing out where we need strengthening and healing.

This part of his concluding paragraph is one to remember:

So, let me just warn you about the power of prayer: you can study the words of a prayer, critique the words, teach the words and say the words, but if you’re not looking you may miss out on something more important than all these things: those words are studying you, they are learning you, teaching you and forming you. They will put you to work; they will send you out on mission.


    1. Sympathy? Really? Flown here there and everywhere, and paid a speaker’s fee too no doubt? Sorry, I can’t share your sympathy or even have any respect for the guys going around “selling” this translation. They’re part of the problem not the solution. Father Ruff: that’s the guy I respect. Work for years on the project, any income going right to the monastery, putting it all on the line with his criticism. And let’s get this straight too that he never said he was against the new translation. He pointed out the errors and downright violations of the Holy See’s own norms not by the translators but by the Vox Clara gang. And look what that honesty got him.

      1. I’m inclined to agree somewhat with Jan (#1) after reviewing Paul’s Web Catechesis (from the University of Notre Dame Liturgy Department: ). It seemed like he was being more of an apologist for the translation than a true educator or catechist. I don’t know Paul personally at all so I would give him the benefit of the doubt. In general, however, most of the pundits making the rounds seem to be selling out.

        The most problematic is Jim Moroney’s take which bipasses the matter of the translation itself and focuses on priestly identity. The implicit point is that priests who are faithful to their “priestly identity” will suck it up and buy in to the translation.

        Generally speaking, I would make the following observation: It seems that all of those who are making the rounds of dioceses putting the best face on the translation are doing so with some degree of self-interest. Career-wise and financially I suspect there is more to be gained by those liturigical experts by shilling for ICEL2010.3 rather than presenting it with integrity.

  1. This is a fine and competent example of positive spin. It is legitimate, and properly called ‘catechesis’, only if we regard its fundamental message as uncontroversially true and salutary. But because that condition is not fulfilled, the spin is in fact manipulation: exploiting the good will and instinctive loyalty of mainstream Catholics in order to sell them a bad text arising from a corrupt process. This is the sort of herd behaviour that undermines the Church’s credibility.

    1. Well articulated, Philip.

      I suspect that part of the corrupt process is dangling prospects of reward (domestic prelacy, episcopacy) for the ICEL-II and VC clerical factotums.

      I also wonder if any bishop who expresses concern – let alone criticism – of the final product would ever be advanced to a larger and/or more prestigious diocese.

      1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Jack. It becomes clearer and clearer that this whole process, beginning with Liturgiam authenticam (with its many laudable directives) and ending (at least for now, maybe) with the post-episcopal-approbation “10,000” revisions of the new ICEL’s work by anonymous people associated with the Vox Clara group, has really been, to what is beginning to appear a great degree, an exercise in clerical score-settling (let’s call it that, for “revenge is mine, saith the Lord”), with a dose of good (?) old-fashioned ambition tossed in.

        Everyone from left to right has his own thoughts on the final product, those on the left vis a vis the current text or the discarded 1998 version, those on the right vis a vis the Latin and 2008. Being part of the latter group, the one thing I really wish someone in Rome had stepped in to speak up for in the 2008 version was its very exact rendition of the Missale’s Latin antiphons, some from the Vulgate, some from the even more ancient source. Whoever did those for the 2008 was extremely precise in his work and rendered them (in my opinion) exactly according to the Latin sense. I was very disappointed to see in the 2010 version what appears to be a Hebrew-original based English translation. Seems like a small point, but we lose a lot of the “sentire cum Ecclesia” interpretation of those small but precious texts when the Missale’s Latin is simply jettisoned in favor of “the original tongues.” Maybe musicians will be given some freedom text-wise when preparing new propers for the new translation?

      2. GMMcG

        The “inside game” aspect of this is repulsive on all fronts. I don’t care whose ox is gored and thus who feels they have a right to cultivate resentment. That whole cycle of score settling is incompatible with Christ.

        Now, where does responsibility for ending the cycle lay? With each of us, now. Not waiting for Them to start first. Christ didn’t say: LOve your enemy as yourself once they’ve made it up to you.

  2. First, Fr. Jim, it should be noted that the videos, which you refer to are not from the liturgy area at Notre Dame itself but the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy in the Institute for Church Life (as director of this group, I felt obliged to offer a fraternal correction in this regard).

    Secondly, I’m very happy that Fr. Ruff not so long ago clarified that this was a site for theological inquiry, a place for faith seeking understanding. What often lacks in the comments, I’ve found, is the essential virtue of the theologian: caritas or love. When I open a text from Augustine, from Gregory of Nyssa, from Catherine of Siena, as a theological reader, I am required to perform a hermeneutics of generosity (at least initially). Indeed, I may disagree after having benefited from the fruits of my inquiry (a kind of conversation with the author); but it strikes me that as a point of theological protocol, the same generosity is not bestowed upon all those who become the topic of conversation in this blog.

    While one may object to how ecclesial leadership treats those who disagree, it strikes me that to return slight for slight is precisely what Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was supposed to cancel out, unbind, redeem. In the words of 1 John, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (4:7-12).

    If conversation about this new translation results in a cessation of love, an increase in the left/right divide, the loss of sacramental charity, then I wonder if we have forgotten the point of liturgical texts in the first place.

  3. If “selling out” means doing my best to help overworked pastors and underpaid pastoral staff figure out what they can do to help their assemblies prepare for the inevitable (barring a complete united voice of opposition from the US Bishops or a radical change in papacy) while giving them a sense of hope and encouragement in the good they strive to do in their parishes Sunday after Sunday, then sign me up.

    There will always be self-serving motives and those who extol the virtues of something without critical thought. Paul is not one of these. He may present it with more honey than some like, but he and the other reputable speakers out there with his academic and pastoral background are not Polyannish about this. Nor are they doom and gloom. In the end, I believe most of them are sincerely trying to help parish leaders who have to help everyday people in their churches understand what’s happening.

      1. Jeremy, travelling these days is no thrilling adventure, and any extra income I get goes toward paying for the graduate degree I had paid for myself and all the other meals, travel, and conference expenses I paid for myself because there was no money in the budget to send me, and no way will I be getting a cool robe to wear in my lifetime. Heck, in some places I can’t even wear an alb. But one of those spa-quality bath robes and matching monogrammed slippers would be nice.

        Good for those who are compensated fairly for the good work they do.

    1. Diana, I do thank you for your perspective. Clearly there is not much glamour involved in flying to Scranton or Youngstown, etc., to give a talk. And I certainly agree that presenters should receive just compensation. Part of my objection is that most of the presentations I have seen and heard are very much “Polyannish” in that they ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the living room. No one fesses up to the abandonment of the 1998 product which in many ways was more in keeping with LA than the “final-final-final” ICEL2010.3 product.

      It seems intelectually dishonest to sell ICEL2010.3 on the basis of its being an improvement from ICEL1974 with respect to several metrics while not disclaiming that there was an ICEL1998 that was in some ways better than ICEL2010.

      I think we need to be honest and inform the people that there was a previous and in some ways better translation that had the enthusiastic support of the English-speaking bishops in the ’90’s which was rejected by the vatican.

      Preserving the ignorance of the English-speaking Roman Catholic people with respect to how the vatican hijacked the process does not seem ethical to me.

      1. I appreciate your clarification, Fr. Jim. And in fact I agree with you. One thing that I talk briefly about in most of the presentations I give is how translations and the process surrounding the making and implementation of them also reveal the ecclesiology of the time and are in some way a barometer of the relationship between Rome and the various conferences and their committees. We have certainly shifted in our sense of ecclesiology since 1969 and especially since the 1990s. So I try to give people as much information as will be useful to them for understanding the big picture of this process. But I also try to make it so that it does not leave them feeling hopeless or resigned to indifference or anger. Where is the place of hope here and how can we move from there, both in drawing out what is good and in challenging what needs conversion?

        I guess my question is this: Can we separate the issues around ecclesiology from the content of the translation and evaluate and respond to each based on their own strengths and weakneses? My gut tells me no. Words communicate meaning *and* identity. But in the meantime, we can’t stop celebrating the liturgy. As Paul Ford often says, how do we fix the engine while the car is running? My attempt is to try to present what is good in the content of the translation while pointing out the weaknesses in it and in the state of our church today, and to give people steps for constructive action in their own local situation. And I emphasize the things that are not changing: our call to justice, our rightful place in the assembly by our baptism, our ever-growing understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ in this world.

    1. No, dew was thought to “fall” rather than “form”. Of course, the Scriptural allusion is to the manna that fell like dew….(though imagine if the quail had been chosen for symbolic reasons…)

      Consider that “dewfall” is in the second verse of “Morning Has Broken”. Oh that Cat Stevens, using unintelligible archaic language.

      1. While I agree that the manna that fell like dew is probably the most important image, Turner points to another, in psalm 33:

        How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one!
        Like precious ointment on the head, running down upon the beard, Upon the beard of Aaron, upon the collar of his robe.
        Like dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion. There the LORD has lavished blessings, life for evermore!

        Hermon is the source of the Jordan river, so the ‘dew’ that falls is the major source of water in a largely arid region. The link to the Jordan gives this image a baptismal significance, enhanced by the image of the abundant oil anointing Moses and Aaron. The use here points to ‘dew’ meaning more than just the morning dew, but any of the precipitation that clings to the mountain before running in streams to the Jordan, especially the snow that can be seen for much of the year.

        I am not too fond of how it is used in EP2, but it is such a wonderful image. Maybe if we just spent all our time repeating this psalm, we could convey the wonder.

  4. The “sympathy” I have for those who must paint an entirely happy face on the translation only describes my sorrow that good folks will take on a ministry that compromises their own integrity. These people know they are selling a damaged product coming out of a damaged process, but they can’t say anything (we know what happens if they are overly honest). I believe one can catechize and preach about new translation, in a positive way, and still be honest with people about one’s misgivings and disappointments about the final product. My experience is that the average Catholic respects such frank assessments about church matters.

  5. If people want their qualms with the translation and the process to be respected as a matter of integrity, they have to reciprocate that respect to people who don’t necessarily share the same perspective. Yet again, some people claim for themselves what they appear unwilling to grant to others. That’s talking the talk but not walking the walk.

  6. Hmmm, Karl, I guess I see part of that but it seems fairly incontrovertible that the product and process has been very much flawed, a result not based as much on liturgical or textual principles as on the fashion and favor of the top tier leadership.

    1. But imputing a lack of integrity to someone like Paul Turner is not thereby made right.

      Because one (of many) implication of the cry of “Collaborationiste!” at someone like Paul Turner is that we all have the right to conscience, except no one else does when we are righter than them. Sounds like Vatican I in Vatican III drag. I make this point from a progressive perspective: this particular kind of imputation is like torpedoing our own ship. Disagree with Paul, fine, but that down that marginal path is a path to self-destruction.

      PS: If I was charged with making the presentation, and someone asked my opinion about the process and the results, I would probably give it – after completing the work I was charged with completing. I have made clear on this board I don’t agree that faking joy is required or even desirable. Who has employed Paul here and what is he tasked with? What authority has he been given and by whom? I come at this from a perspective of fiduciary duty, in that sense, I guess.

  7. I find Karl, Diana’s and many other points helpful. I confess that I am very angry, resentful and feeling betrayed by the process and product and its imposition. Please recall that I did say I give Paul the benefit of the doubt. (#3) If i had said anything inappropriate or hurtful I am sorry. I feel abused by the process and am lashing out. I do have to orient the parishioners to the migration from ICEL1974 to ICEL2010 and wish to “first do no harm.” The comments above have been helpful.

  8. It’s ironic that in the new text of Eucharistic Prayer II we have a dynamic equivalence translation, where Vox Clara have broken the “most exact manner” rules of translation:

    The initial ICEL literal translation of the Latin was

    Haec ergo dona, quaesumus, Spiritus tui rore sanctifica

    Therefore, make holy these gifts, we pray,
    by the dew of your Spirit

    but accuracy was discarded in favour of imagery and intelligibility – approved by Vox Clara –

    Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall

    What does this breaking of one’s own rigid translation rules mean? If we can break Latin literalism here for liturgical reasons, why can’t we break it all over the Mass texts to make them more meaningful, more beautiful in English? Is this example an admission that dynamic equivalence really is the more intelligent way, the deeper way, the more difficult way, the more useful way, for translating liturgical texts?

    1. One reason is that what may appear more meaningful & beautiful to Graham may not be more meaningful or beautiful to me. The common ground between us is the original Latin (post V2) missal. The “Areas of Difficulty” are actually quite few for a text that size and looks like a red herring to me. Only five or six examples are given for the most serious areas of difficulty (1 & 2). Many peoples’ real issues are deeper than what the AofD suggest-just look at the discussions we’ve had here.

  9. “So, let me just warn you about the power of prayer: you can study the words of a prayer, critique the words, teach the words and say the words, but if you’re not looking you may miss out on something more important than all these things: those words are studying you, they are learning you, teaching you and forming you. They will put you to work; they will send you out on mission.”

    To be sure, in omnibus caritas, in the face of sincerely held but differing viewpoints.

    Yet, as to the statement above, may I say gently, respectfully that I find its rhetoric a bit didactic and a bit opaque. For example, as to the former, “let me just warn you” and “but if you’re not looking.” As to the latter, what is the meaning of “those words are studying you, they are learning you”?

    And for those of us who have a somewhat different, or altogether different, point of view, are we wrong in thinking that we are being chided just a bit, unintentionally to be sure, and perhaps even being talked down to as not quite getting the essence of the matter?

    When is making the best of what we’ve got, however we got it, the only way forward? As someone trained in Church history, I see too many sad instances in which expedience has been made a virtue.

    And peace at the last.

    1. Yes, John Robert

      “too many sad instances in which expedience has been made a virtue”

      For the liturgy, good enough just isn’t.

  10. Fr. Turner’s presentation actually appealed to me – it touched on history; it outlined how liturgy changes; how our language changes; it did a good job of showing the impact of VII, the 1st ICEL/ICET, capturing lost EPs and using that process as a future template, underlining the connection to scripture.

    Yet, it left me, IMO, with two different ways that personalities handle an institutional process – some see the lack of openness, the single issues, etc. but feel that they are called to help the “church” come what may. They are able to overlook the internal issues.

    Others may have used that approach but finally found it wanting – it feels like complicity; it feels like participating in a fraud, etc. Not sure we will ever be able to know all the motivations.

    As much as I like Turner’s use of EPII to frame the new translation – he focused on certain things; skipped over others; minimized some things. Example – he focused on the process and reasons to go back to the use of the word – “many”…..he showed its connection to scripture and that it matched the latin word. But this creates for me a number of questions:
    – you can find multiple scriptural references to support “many’ or “all, etc. So, why change the work of the First ICEL whose dynamic equivalence “all” was just as supportable? (it almost feels like an internal war of gotcha)
    – his other examples straddled the line – the new work sometimes chose literal translation and some times it did not – does feel arbitrary?
    – despite Turner’s best efforts, it left me with the feeling that translating language is a difficult task and is not able to be done “literally”…..he hits this a glancing blow….he knows this
    – finally, any talk is limited but he does not touch on chant, music, antiphons, propers, etc. at all….is this because it creates even more jarring comparisons
    – and what happens if someone says – 1998?

  11. I already remarked about my feelings about the Conference, having been in attendance (see the other thread). But, other than the worship element of the Conference, the only thing that really rubbed me wrong was Fr. Turner’s talk. Had it not been on the first night, and right in between some goofy inculturation attempts, I might have had a whole different light on the Conference.

    I think many of you here have touched on why it rubbed me so wrong. He is straddling a line between theology and catechesis, and in the process, it is difficult to do either well.

    I honestly believe that the manner in which he presented tells me that Fr. Turner is a sincere man, and though has a bit of humour about some aspects of the translation, is convicted in what he is saying.

    As I said on my own blog, I think I would have enjoyed discussing things with him over a pint.

    Especially after all of the doubt about whether or not the so-called canon of the Apostolic Tradition of HIppolytus, anti-pope, actually was ever used as a Eucharistic prayer, I found it difficult to use that as a framework for the talk. My own studies found me constantly analyzing everything he had to say, and to the detriment of what he had to say about the new Missal.

    No doubt, had he used the Roman Canon as the framework, he probably would have irritated quite a few people on the other side of the aisle.

    Upon reflection, the whole talk has caused me to examine my own catechetical methodology– where the gap is between catechesis and theological speculation, and whether or not to even combine the two, lest the message gets lost.

    To contrast his talk with Dr. Fagerberg’s the next morning, Fr. Turner left me feeling that we should be so thankful for a committee of folks who can create new prayers for us; whereas Dr. Fagerberg’s talk left me thinking we should be very mindful of what has been entrusted to us, because that which is given has been given by God, and we have no authority to change substantially…

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