“A little abstruse and pretentious”: Abbot Johnson of Vatican Translation Committee on the New Missal

Yes, he really said that. Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, OSB, abbot emeritus of Quarr Abbey of the Solesmes Congregation in England, said this when asked about the online survey of The Tablet:

The Tablet‘s survey, however, appears to indicate that while there is an openness and a degree of appreciation for the new translation, there is a desire for an improvement that will ensure that the English flows more smoothly, and that the vocabulary, while being more dignified is not, as sometimes appears, a little abstruse and pretentious.

This is significant because Abbot Cuthbert Johnson is advisor to the Vox Clara, the Vatican-appointed committee to advise the Congregation for Divine Worship in its approval of English-language liturgical texts, and also a consultor to the Congregation for Divine Worship. We now have someone from within the Vatican structure saying openly that the new Missal texts are abstruse and pretentious.

This maybe interests me more than you, but Abbot Cuthbert also said that English texts need to be adjusted sometimes for the sake of the musical setting – just as Solesmes received permission to adjust the Latin text (this primarily concerns prefaces) in their Latin chant settings. I agree with him.

The Tablet invited numerous people to reply (me among them). It is striking that no one, not even those from officialdom, claimed that the new texts are good, that the missal is a good thing, that we have beautiful and poetic English. Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff, for example, said only that “…prayed properly, these texts will yield greater insights into the mystery of faith” celebrated in Mass. I think that means that if you work hard enough, you can make it work and even get something out of it.

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, chairman of Vox Clara, conceded, “Neither is there a unanimous enthusiasm, especially among the clergy as they adapt to more sophisticated patterns of thought and language. It is also of interest that those who were apprehensive before the texts appeared generally felt their fears were justified.” The most he can hope for is some benefit if we just stick with it: “Patience and repetition of the translation will produce a spiritual deepening, slow, long-term changes for the better.”

Bishop Trautman, retired bishop of Erie PA, famous for being the most vocal opponent of the new Missal, said in part:

Before we translate additional liturgical books according to the principles of formal equivalency used in the missal, would it not be pastorally prudent to ask celebrants and the assembly their experience in receiving the new translation? Could there not be a brief evaluation commissioned by the bishops’ conferences in English-speaking countries? Do we not owe the Holy See an objective and honest discernment? It is not a question of being critical; it is a question of assessing the pastoral implications of the most important activity Roman Catholics do – celebrate Eucharist.

See the full comments of these people at The Tablet, and of others too, here.

Such comments from a wide range of people are encouraging. They show that no one, not even those responsible for the new Missal, is defending it very strongly. Church officials are quietly admitting that something didn’t go quite right. Word has gotten through to them from their priests and people, and of course they also have had to use these texts when celebrating Mass, and officials are cautious now and a bit more honest in their comments.

At the height of the missal controversy a couple years back, back when I was becoming increasingly critical of the Missal project here at Pray Tell, I received intriguing advice from someone involved in preparing and promoting the new Missal. He emailed me something to the effect of, “Relax, Anthony, and don’t kill yourself fighting this thing. You don’t have to – it will fall on its own merits after it appears.” Then he predicted that we’d have something like the 1998 Sacramentary within about a decade.

I hope he’s right, and I increasingly suspect he is. The comments from The Tablet story give me hope.

I wouldn’t re-do the whole Missal, by the way. I wouldn’t change the people’s parts yet again, not now and not in ten years. Maybe a little tweaking here and there, such as “of one substance” instead of “consubstantial.” But the presidential texts could be reworked entirely, and without much difficulty.

He said optimistically.

awr

41 comments

  1. Forget 1998 – that has already been rejected. Focus your attention on a revised 2011 version. In ten-fifteen years, we will probably have a revised normative GIRM, and the whole English speaking world will be reading from the same translation of Scripture, namely a revised ESV (Americans will cease using the NAB and the rest will cease using the Jerusalem Bible). If a refined 2011 version of the Missal were to be available at the same time, it might just have a hope of being implemented.

    I like to use a sieve analogy – separate the wanted from the unwanted parts. Most of the current Missal should be retained (if slightly re-worked in parts). But the really defective parts (and as we have seen, any honest person will admit the new Missal does include such parts), should be discarded or significantly reworked. Some attention might be paid to the insights published on this blog, and other blogs whose editors, although holding a different world view, are also characterized by erudition and deep personal love of the Holy Mass.

    Regarding the people’s parts, I agree that little should change in any revised version.

    And in matters such as these let us always trust in the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Forget 1998 – that has already been rejected. Focus your attention on a revised 2011 version. In ten-fifteen years, we will probably have a revised normative GIRM, and the whole English speaking world will be reading from the same translation of Scripture, namely a revised ESV (Americans will cease using the NAB and the rest will cease using the Jerusalem Bible). If a refined 2011 version of the Missal were to be available at the same time, it might just have a hope of being implemented.
    I like to use a sieve analogy – separate the wanted from the unwanted parts. Most of the current Missal should be retained (if slightly re-worked in parts). But the really defective parts (and as we have seen, any honest person will admit the new Missal does include such parts), should be discarded or significantly reworked. Some attention might be paid to the insights published on this blog, and other blogs whose editors, although holding a different world view, are also characterized by erudition and deep personal love of the Holy Mass.
    Regarding the people’s parts, I agree that little should change in any revised version.
    And in matters such as these let us always trust in the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

  3. Yes, the people’s parts are not too bad. I wouldn’t change them in ten years either.

    “Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff, for example, said only that ‘…prayed properly, these texts will yield greater insights into the mystery of faith’ celebrated in Mass.”

    This is a level of “propriety” better applied to the actual Word of God and the experience of the sacraments. I’d think that perhaps oince we’ve plumbed the depths of the Scriptures, we could move on to the other, uninspired texts of the Mass. It suggests an ungodly hubris connected with ICEL and Vox Clara and their work.

  4. Does ‘prayed properly’ necessary imply that some special effort is needed to adjust to a disliked text? ‘Prayed properly’ applies to all liturgical texts, whether we like them or not. What the bishop is saying is that if one prays these texts as properly as one would pray those he might prefer, the results will be more satisfactory. It should be known by now that I am aware of the unfortuitous shortcomings of our new translation, but do not share in the visceral and out of hand repudiation of it. It exhibits (or means to exhibit) many laudable characteristics, even if it does display numerous miscarriages of admirably conceived locution. Certainly, more good can come of Abbot Cuthbert’s rational and fair observations than of the cantankerous screed of those who advocate rebellion and the use of their own favoured texts. I wonder how many priests and pelpe who dislike our new translation have bothered earnestly to pray with it in the same spirit with which they pray with texts they like, have met it on its own terms. Give it the benefit of the doubt, use it with earnestness and honesty, and see what a difference it makes, what a better thing it is!

    1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #2:
      MJO: I am not aware of many priests (or lay people) on PrayTell “who advocate rebellion and the use of their own favoured texts.” I think there is one priest who comments on here who says that he has been using the 1998 text, and for a while there were comments from those who said they were going to insist on making the old responses, but these seem to have drifted away (I hope it is only from PrayTell and not the Church). There has been lots of complaining, but I think there has also been pretty consistent obedience to what the powers that be have asked of us.

      I tend to agree with Anthony that we should leave the people’s parts alone (with the possible exceptions of replacing “consubstantial” with “of one substance” and Paul’s suggestion regarding the first line of the Gloria, which is a great improvement).

      I also thought the remark “…prayed properly, these texts will yield greater insights into the mystery of faith” was interesting. The prayers — at least most of them — do give insight into some of the grammatical nuances of the Latin, and these grammatical nuances sometimes give insight into theological nuances. But it seems to me that that sort of translation is more suitable as an aid to scholarly study than as an aid to prayer. It is sort of like the medieval Latin translations of Aristotle: they hewed so closely to the grammar of the Greek original that they were pretty much unintelligible to non-specialists. That is why most “commentaries” on these texts were initially simply paraphrases into more intelligible Latin.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #7:

        There has been lots of complaining, but I think there has also been pretty consistent obedience to what the powers that be have asked of us.

        The matter is a little more complex.

        In the Vibrant Parish Life Study the largest discrepancy between what is important and how well it is being done occurred for the item Parish leadership that listens to the concerns of parishioners which was #29 of 39 items in being well done but #7 in importance .

        In my experience while there is a lot of informal griping in parishes about things liturgical, it rarely surfaces publicly. It is rather useless to have open parish council meetings because rarely does anyone come. The powers that be do their part to discourage public dissent by recruiting people for parish council, committee, etc. that do not have an “agenda.” Often when candidates are “discerned” having a bland, humble “open to the Spirit”, i.e. willing to go along with the pastoral staff and everyone else is the preferred attitude.

        In my own case I simply no longer say most of the new responses, e.g. the New Creed, Suscipe, etc. I simply gave up trying to learn them. I let the other people do it for me; Since I sing more than most people (because I know more songs) it all balances out.

        I have gone to pre-Council practices like bringing my Gregorian Latin-English Missal with me which of course has the Old Missal English texts. I sing the Latin Creed mentally while people recite it in English. I sing the old forms of the Eucharistic Prayers mentally when the priest speaks the new ones. Maybe eventually I will sing along mentally enough with the new EPs to learn the music for them.

        Actually the text of the prayers is far down on my agenda. I am more concerned about having a sung Eucharistic Prayer, and hymns that I know and like. When I get those, I can live with the texts since I really don’t pay much attention to them anyway. Maybe its my musical attitude toward the liturgy, as long as I can sing it who cares what it says or means.

        Personally I think that having a greater variety of texts either formally by the celebrants or informally by way of our personal computer devices is the only way forward. Having a one size fits all text handed down from a bureaucracy (any one curia or academic, Rome or national) is just a relic of the industrial age.

      2. @Jack Rakosky – comment #8:
        Well, Jack, it is, but that’s not to say as much as your last thought implies. For example, without a uniform text, there can be no congregational singing of the text in question unless one goes entirely recto tono. Uniformity is not only disempowering; it is also empowering. We have to grapple with both sides of that, and not merely the one we prefer.

      3. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #11:

        Post-industrial congregational singing?

        Well I am just an amateur singer who doesn’t read music or understand music so I may be beyond my depth here, but anyway…

        A couple decades back I read an article about an Eastern (non-Byzantine) Liturgy which described everybody as singing at their own pace and in their own way not paying much attention to what each other was doing.

        Also a couple of decades back I participated in a charismatic Mass in which charismatics after each song (Gloria, Sanctus, Lord’s Prayer) did their singing in tongues for a while until it would finally die out. (I wondered if I could get away with singing the Sanctus and Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic during these?)

        Although I have a strong voice and some think it is a beautiful voice, since I don’t read music I have had a difficult time fitting into choirs and even congregations.

        At the local Orthodox church most of the singers are women. Even if there were more men they have a strong preference for “blending.” However I like the deep male sounds of Orthodox polyphony so I sing my “part” mentally. Since I can’t read music I don’t even know if I am singing a “correct” part. But something usually comes to my mind as to what a deep male part should be.

        A few years back a local congregational music leader encouraged the congregation to sing even if they didn’t sing well. He mentioned “Happy Birthday” as a model. I told him that if he chose songs as familiar as “Happy Birthday” we would all sing. When people sing “Happy Birthday” or familiar Christmas carols they often seem to sing their own musical versions from memory and not in very neat congregational unity.

        Some time ago I came across a book which advocated that our voices are unique musical instruments and we should learn to sing our own voices. Somehow it seems to me there are a lot of “industrial notions” in the music world about things like choral singing and blending.

        We don’t have to all sing the same words at the same time in the same ways. There are a lot of music forms that do not do that.

      4. @Jack Rakosky – comment #18:
        Jack

        The Puritans had that congregational singing model you are searching for, (until William Billings and the other singing school masters offered an escape hatch). It traumatized generations of New Englanders.

      5. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #9:
        “I also thought the remark “…prayed properly, these texts will yield greater insights into the mystery of faith” was interesting. The prayers — at least most of them — do give insight into some of the grammatical nuances of the Latin, and these grammatical nuances sometimes give insight into theological nuances. But it seems to me that that sort of translation is more suitable as an aid to scholarly study than as an aid to prayer.”

        As I have always written, some of the prayers could be written in a high English with a bit more elegance and I would certainly welcome that kind of revision, but what I appreciate most about the new translation when compared to the 1973 is precisely what I quote above, but it gives more than just Catholic theological precision, it gives us Catholic spirituality and piety. But again, that can be maintained in any revision that focuses on eloquence of style in modern English idiom.

  5. I was intrigued to see Mgr Andrew Wadsworth saying

    The success of the chant settings of the Order of Mass has been overwhelming and reasonably universal.

    I don’t know on what basis he makes this judgement, but the fact is that the chants have come in for particular criticism at grass-roots level and this state of affairs continues. They have been condemned for being dirge-like, and some in particular, such as the Gloria, have been rated time and time again as completely unusable. Clergy have certainly been encouraged to chant more, if only so that during the transition people would be alerted to the fact that “and with your spirit” was going to be different from what they were used to saying, but that doesn’t mean that the settings themselves are as successful as he seems to think. I would refer him to the comments received in the Portsmouth Diocesan Survey, where, to everyone’s surprise, the anti-reaction to the Missal chants was marked and even violent.

    Even Abbot Johnson is clear that the chants have not been an unqualified success:

    While welcoming the high percentage in favour of the plainchant settings, this does not reflect the reality that they are technically in need of improvement. To ensure the correct flow of the melody, the Abbey of Solesmes when preparing the music for the Latin Missal received permission to modify the word order of certain Latin texts, so it is not surprising that the English musical texts might need similar attention.

    If only those responsible for administering the approval processes now in place had thought the same thing. “And peace on earth to people of goodwill” is far more singable than “and on earth peace to people of goodwill”, to give just one example.

    On the other hand Michael G. Ryan makes some telling points, including

    I note that 19 per cent of respondents – over 1,000 individuals – indicate a preference for the Extraordinary Form. Not surprisingly, they register an overwhelming approval of the new translation. But this percentage is so out of proportion to the number of Catholics who attend Extraordinary Form Masses that one suspects there was a concerted effort among them to urge like-minded people to complete the survey.

    Indeed, and

    Fully 70 per cent of priest respondents indicate that they don’t like the new texts, 69 per cent preferring the old translation. The numbers among Religious are even more striking, with 81 per cent expressing a preference for the old translation. Could this be because the people can tune out the texts, while the priests do not enjoy that luxury?

  6. I have only been parish priest in small parishes with limited resources. I used the 1973 music because it was simple and available, and could be sung unaccompanied.
    I was hesitant about introducing the new chant settings, having heard the negative opinions of experts (although I had also worked with the experts who produced them). After an initial period of familiarisation, I am glad to say that my congregation now sing them with gusto on weekdays as well as Sundays.
    When experts trash new music, I am reminded of the critics who trashed Beethoven. They thought they knew best, but in fact they were trapped in the past.

  7. Our congregation sings the chanted versions very well also and with gusto. We are planning for the first time at two of our Ordinary Form Masses to introduce the chanted Credo III. I personally liked the style of the prefaces of the 1973 missal and found it very difficult to make the transition to the new one, but now after more than a year of doing the new ones, I’ve gotten its style into my blood and don’t need to even review them that much prior to chanting them, although there are a couple of prefaces that throw me in terms of notation, but my McGregorian style of chant helps me to improvise in those situations.
    However, I think I’ve been writing all along that more than likely some of the prayers of the priest would need to undergo a revision and most likely would in ten years or so. Apart from priests, I doubt that anyone would even notice when these are revised. I would be opposed to changing any of the people’s parts in English ever again.

  8. When I said “the success of the chant settings of the Order of Mass has been overwhelming and reasonably universal”, I was basing that assessment on a number of simple indicators:
    – ten of the eleven ICEL conferences adopted our proposed chants for the Order of Mass in their published edition of the Roman Missal. Conferences have very considerable autonomy in this particular respect so this was highly significant.
    – many conferences have commented on how the use of the missal chants has greatly assisted in the implementation of the Order of Mass and speeded up the process of familiarisation with the people’s parts.
    – there is considerable evidence that these chants are being used (along with other settings) in a wide variety of circumstances from the solemn liturgies of great cathedrals to weekday masses with small congregations.
    – the use of Gregorian Chant in this way has reignited a more general interest in the use of chant and stimulated a long-needed discussion about possible ways in which the texts of mass propers might be sung.

    Before I am accused of rehearsing my usual list of priorities in relation to liturgical music, I should point out that these observations also emerged at a recent week-long consultation of national secretaries for liturgy of the ICEL conferences.

    In making textual observations in relation to the ICEL chants of the Roman Missal, we should also remember that those responsible for these chants were only in a position to set the texts that were established by the Holy See and although their consultation was sought, they were not part of the process that established that text.

  9. for a while there were comments from those who said they were going to insist on making the old responses, but these seem to have drifted away

    I am mostly silent and say them mentally in my native language. When I do voice responses, those are are the old responses.

    I find that my best experience of the Mass seems to be when there are distractions helping me to not pay too much attention to (and wince at) the priest’s words.

  10. Msgr. Wadsworth,

    You said above, in response to Paul Inwood:

    ” there is considerable evidence that these chants are being used (along with other settings) in a wide variety of circumstances from the solemn liturgies of great cathedrals to weekday masses with small congregations.”

    What I understood Paul’s question to be, however, is “what evidence?” Could you tell us where and how you gathered this considerable evidence, as it seems to run counter to the experience of others and at least some of the survey data?

  11. In the vein of listening to the priest, can I ask a question about Abbot Cuthbert’s remark?

    the vocabulary, while being more dignified is not, as sometimes appears, a little abstruse and pretentious.

    Are we to read the “not” as:
    More than a little abstruse?
    It only appears abstruse?
    It is not abstruse?

    About all I can say is that the Abbot’s vocabulary is abstruse.

    1. @Jim McKay – comment #15:
      And what is wrong with being abstruse? Abstrusion may be, and often is, the shell surrounding a very rich kernel. It may be a messenger of hidden wisdom. Why does everthing have to be boringly plain as day? We after all take quite a lifetime to comprehend Jesus.

      1. @M. Jackson Osborn – comment #23:

        I did not say there was anything wrong with abstrusity. I just do not understand the Abbot’s words and sought some help to clarify. I accept Fr Anthony’s gloss, that the “not” is irrelevant, but I cannot figure how to get to that understanding.

        In the liturgy otoh linguistic abstrusity is a hindrance to religious sense, not a part of it. There it is to be avoided, so that the wondrous incomprehensibility of God may be more clearly discerned.

  12. Msgr. Harbert,

    I take it that your comment, “When experts trash new music, I am reminded of the critics who trashed Beethoven,” refers to Paul Inwood’s comment at #5.

    As with Msgr. Wadsworth’s comment, however, this response seems not to answer Paul’s contention, which is not that “experts” reject the new music, but that — using Paul’s word — “grassroots” opinion runs against them. He offers the results of the Portsmouth survey in support of this. The Portsmouth survey was not surveying expert opinion, but general trends, as I understand it.

    Your congregation is singing the chants with gusto, and this may settle the case for you, but it doesn’t follow that what Paul is talking about is a case of “experts” being unwilling to change.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #16:
      And to add to Rita’s question – can see the value of a re-emphasis on use of chants but why did this effort require a *new translation*?

      Also, in terms of your own small parish experience – don’t doubt that you have been able to implement this. In fact, if I was part of this community, probably would have enjoyed the change. But, isn’t this also a reflection of your knowledge, passion, skills, etc. Can that easily be translated elsewhere – how many current priests share your skill level or passion? What about large parishes with diverse cultures and populations?

      At times, it feels more like something that the individual DM or pastor wants rather than some type of need or invitation?

  13. Encouraging article, Fr Anthony. Eventually, truth rises to the top of the pile or the pond. . .Now, I see the 1998 Sacramentary (oooppss, or is it Missal?) mentioned and extolled often. Is it available/accessible online? Is there a link working? Some time ago there was an URL given but when I sought it out it shouted back:”This material has been removed!” Oh. . .why? by whom?
    Thanks for any help. . . . . . ..Gerald.

  14. Dear MJO, abstrusion is the act of thrusting something away, as in “We fervently advocate the abstrusion of the new translation of the Roman Missal.”

    So I doubt it can be a shell surrounding any kind of kernel.

    Perhaps you meant abstrusity, which can also mean “profoundness” or “reconditeness”; its main meaning, I think, is “the state of being abstruse“, i.e. “arcane, incomprehensible, hard to understand”.

    I admire the linguistic world you inhabit!

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #24:
      JD –
      Many thanks for the lesson! You are right. Abstrusion is the word I should have used, though not necessarily arcane in sense; though arcanity, like abstrusity, may turn out to have been an interesting literary device.

  15. “Rejected by Rome but approved by the bishops of the United States.”

    Don’t forget the bishops of 15 other conferences.

    The chant was a hugely tough sell in my parish. Two reasons.

    A handful of my parish musicians found the Missal settings bland and uninspiring. Gloria XV is tough–I don’t mean difficult. 4 notes until you get to the final line–not quite enough to give you a tonality. New singers stumble on the F-natural. Better choices were available on just about every selection.

    I couldn’t even convince my parish musicians to consider an alternate chant setting. The sense was that the new words were turning the clock back enough. So they opted for a setting with a very contemporary feel. People sing it well.

    While on sabbatical, our pastor heard clergy chant the new Missal settings and has done that since his return. Our more conservative associate ignores the chants and continues to make things up.

    I think ICEL officials and consultants will need to travel rather more widely. It is easy to stay in the comfortable confines of chant lovers and high church parishes. The real test is in places where the Missal is being received with difficulty, and the whiff of antigospel is strong.

    1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #25:
      I find that Gloria actually works best a cappella – the austerity of the melody is best paired with austerity of performance. (I do find it funny to find some more traditionally-oriented musicians who have mocked the pentatonic nature of many American folk hymn tunes but love this Gloria).

      1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #26:
        Gloria XV can work a cappella–like the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos. But that last cadence was difficult for one group of choir members at a diocesan roll-out for MR3. After two minutes of e-g-a-b, everyone wanted to sing f-sharp.

        I have to say that pentatonic American folk tunes are generally better melodies than Gloria XV.

  16. Information was gathered from national secretaries of ICEL conferences as part of an on-going appraisal of a bigger/non-local picture. This takes into consideration reactions within conferences and compares approaches and reactions on the international scale.

    ICEL has eleven member conferences and over twenty associate conferences – collating and considering reports from them all is part of a process of appraisal of the reception of the missal translation.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #29:
      Okay – you say: “Information was gathered from national secretaries of ICEL conferences as part of an on-going appraisal of a bigger/non-local picture. This takes into consideration reactions within conferences and compares approaches and reactions on the international scale.”

      A couple of inherent dangers with this approach:
      – does every nat’l secretary get input from their dioceses in any organized fashion? You say – *on-going appraisal* – what does this mean? With very few exceptions, unaware of any dioceses that have done feedback surveys, audits, etc. So, what is the appraisal based upon? Subjectivism? Small cohort of folks (clerics, pastors, DMs)? If not, then
      – there is the danger of the *bubble effect or echo chamber* – no secretary wants to deliver negative news; so there is really only subjective appraisals. And if the focus of the appraisal is how well did the *roll out* occur – again, bias, etc. will make this type of audit fairly useless.

      Finally, can you reply to the questions in #22?

  17. O Todd (and others who want to help bury AWR’s contribution to the ICEL): don’t hitch your darn wagon to Mass XV, especiallly you, Todd. You have trumpeted from the rooftops how the most salient factor in “selling” a piece of music to any congregation is the quality of leadership, not just in the director and/or organist, but in the quire. Using the F natural v. F sharp in the final cadence argument is an affront to serious theoreticians and musicologists, as well as to the little kids, grades 2-7 whom I taught that modality to in less than two minutes three years ago and can sing it from memory today.
    Cease underestimating and demeaning the vox populi, especially if you want to champion their voice to bolster your prejudices. I’m not selling XV, we’re so beyond that, but you all a PTB keep bringing up this dumb straw man.
    What’s unfortunate, if you need some consolation, is that AWR and whomever was compelled to use Jubilate Deo as the ICEL template. Why don’t you grouse about that for a spell?

  18. Bill, I think it important to bear in mind that in this discussion information seems to be given in three quite distinct ways, each coherent within their own context:

    – purely personal observations based on personal or local experience
    – surveys conducted online but with an unrestricted sample of respondents
    – feed-back from national secretaries who receive data from dioceses within their own conference.

    The smallest unit that ICEL deals with in this way is a conference, while the conferences themselves may obviously gather information as they wish.

    In relation to your question concerning chant and a new translation, it is not so much that a new translation was necessary for greater emphasis on the use of chant but rather that most new editions of the ritual book of the missal have contained greatly more music than any of their predecessors and that music has mostly been chant. This in itself has occasioned a different sort of conversation about the nature of what we sing during the celebration of Mass.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #34:
      Two observations. Prior to the current incarnation of ICEL, consultation was gathered from beyond the conferences: theologians, musicians, pastoral ministers. Why not continue what worked so well for the Pastoral Care rites, RCIA, and the OCF?

      We are also treating a matter that goes a bit beyond the giving and getting of information. Liturgy is largely a spiritual matter, and while I can respect the place of limited personal experience, surveys, and national offices, my sincere suggestion is that a more active attempt to connect to God’s will is lacking.

      The advantage of liturgical reform ca 1964 through the early 90’s is that proposed texts were often prayed. MR1 was rolled out over a span of five years. It might be suggested that if ICEL was aware of the advance grumblings about MR3 that an experimental effort, a testing of the fruits, might have been achieved other than that awkward advance rollout in South Africa. Which was just a darned embarrassment.

      Time and again, Vox Clara and ICEL have been criticized on important fronts: bypassing the input and even the approval of conferences, and even the members’ lack of competence as translators, administrators, and even as ministers of the Gospel (as opposed to advocates for personal ideology).

      The whole sorry deal is an opportunity for reflection that the Holy Spirit must be with the Church for us to survive these shenanigans of the past fifteen years.

  19. Thanks for the information.

    Again – feedback from conferences via each diocese….concerns about if and how this information is obtained?

    New translation & chant…..was guessing that this was the case given many of the posts on PTB. But, again, any missal e.g. 1998 could have been revised with added chants, emphasis, etc. without going through the experience of 2010-11. And, as with any liturgical change or direction, will seminaries, bishops, diocesan DMs actually implement what is intended? (and yes, this has nothing to do with the translation – whether formal equivalence or whatever method)

  20. I would respectively suggest that those of us who encounter and are in contact with thousands of people at grass-roots level each year, in a multitude of dioceses on both sides of the Pond, might be in a better place to judge what people are actually saying than the secretaries of national commissions, however well intentioned.

    The tragedy of the new translation is that something which was supposed to be an improvement and unitive has in fact proved to be the reverse of both of these things. We do not need a divisive way of praying at this time in the Church’s history.

    The same is true of the Missal chants. They have been a source of frustration and division because of the philosophy behind the method used to produce them, which is, to say the least. highly debatable. Additionally the three-man ICEL working group did not consult extensively (or indeed at all?), and adverse comments on the drafts were ignored except in one or two instances. In other words, it was a re-run of what happened in the very early 1970s, when offers of help (or indeed protests) were brushed aside, with the result that very few of the chants were actually used very much, with the exception of the Preface dialogue and doxology at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. (And even then, in large tracts of the US a much simpler doxology was routinely used by bishops and priests.)

    I personally have encouraged many priests to use the chants, but often the chants need adaptation because (a) they don’t take into account the need to work in conjunction with the English language rather than in opposition to it, (b) they don’t take cognisance of the experience, “tonal memory” and seminary formation of many clergy, and (c) because they can be quite frankly confusing (look at the number of different ways of singing “The Lord be with you” that are provided — that was clearly a misjudgement, one of many). So I find myself saying to priests things like “I know you find a tone which oscillates between two notes a major 2nd apart more difficult than one which uses a dropping minor 3rd instead. So go for what is comfortable for you. You need to be at ease with what you are chanting, so that the people may also be at ease and not disturbed by seeing you struggling with the chant. Where it does not lie naturally, make it natural! The important thing is to chant, not to follow slavishly the eccentricities of the Missal.”

    Having said that, clearly there are chants where unity of practice is needed. That is why what was provided for the final phrase of the EP doxology is such a disaster. Many priests cannot sing it correctly as printed, and there is no reason why they should. It does not lie naturally on the voice or respect natural word stresses, and a better solution could so easily have been provided…. It is needlessly divisive, rather than unitive. Chanting is for real people, not just for musicians.

  21. ICEL cannot enter into micro-management of what happens on a local level, conferences and dioceses have responsibility for the liturgy in their territories. While we are always happy to hear from groups and individuals, ICEL is essentially a Commission of bishops and an agency that assists the bishops of English-speaking conferences in meeting their responsibilities concerning the liturgy. We do not have the mandate or the resources to do more than propose texts, or in this case, chants. The conferences may consult as widely as they wish. It may be that your concerns re consultation are more properly focused at that level of the process.

  22. “Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, chairman of Vox Clara, conceded, “Neither is there a unanimous enthusiasm, especially among the clergy as they adapt to more sophisticated patterns of thought and language. It is also of interest that those who were apprehensive before the texts appeared generally felt their fears were justified.” The most he can hope for is some benefit if we just stick with it: “Patience and repetition of the translation will produce a spiritual deepening, slow, long-term changes for the better.””

    MORE SOPHISTICATED PATTERNS OF THOUGHT AND LANGUAGE — the irony is too deep for comment…

  23. Revise 2011 __ no, dump it! You cannot make a silken purse of a sow’s ear.

    And instead of translating, compose.

    For most Catholics the mass has become a meaningless routine cemented only by fetichistic habit.

    Rethink, reimagine, rewrite.

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