Strong words on missal translation from former ICEL chair

In the current issue of The Tablet (subscription required), there is an incisively-written letter to the editor from Bishop Maurice Taylor. Bishop Taylor was chair of the episcopal (i.e. bishops’) board of the International Commission on the Liturgy (ICEL) during the difficult period when the Holy See did away with ICEL as it then existed, and restructured it as it took over the translation process.

Bishop Taylor expresses concern about

the requirement that the Holy See must approve (grant recognitio to) a translation before it can be lawfully used. Such a requirement is, in fact, not to be found in the relevant document of the Second Vatican Council. … What unfortunately happened was that, within a few weeks of the constitution being promulgated, the Holy See issued a motu proprio which states (wrongly) that the Vatican Council requires the Holy See to approve not only a decision to translate but also the resultant translation. …

He also is concerned that

although translations of the Missal for use in the liturgy need the approval of “the competent local authority” (bishops’ conferences), the English translation which we now use does not seem, after the alterations made by the Congregation for Divine Worship and its advisory group Vox Clara, to have been formally approved by the bishops’ conferences.

Of course we’re all wondering what shape curial reforms will take under Pope Francis, and whether or not the problems raised by Bishop Taylor will be addressed.


  1. Hopefully, they will be addressed, if slowly but surely, eventually.

    As an aside, at today’s mass, our priest announced that he would be using Eucharistic Prayer IV, and I confess that when he began to pray, fumbling his lines several times along the way (and really, who could blame him), all I could think was, ‘that’s some bizarre English we have there.’

    Perhaps it was mainly due to unfamiliarity, but it really felt bizarre hearing the words of that prayer, which was arguably beyond my “power of comprehension.”

  2. I am glad that Bishop Taylor’s voice is again being raised. My hope is that other former ICEL experts will speak up, and even more importantly, be heard.

  3. Well, I know I speak for only a paltry several millions English-speaking Catholics when I say with some conviction that Our Lord did not deign to drink from a chalice, along with the wealthy elite. He drank from a cup. He admonished those priests and Pharisees who set themselves apart from the lowly masses, the same priests and Pharisees who comprised the ISEL who recently butchered our liturgy.

    Any liturgy whose design it is to exclude from understanding the unwashed masses, those of us whose language (vernacular) does NOT include “incarnate,” “consubstantial,” or “mea culpa” &c &c, is a liturgy designed to empty out the pews. And it’s doing a spectacular job of that.

    I’m sorry, but I studied Latin for 11 years, but I pray to my God in English. In my vernacular. When Latin becomes the vernacular in America, I’m all for a Latin Mass.

    And praying for “people of good will” instead of praying for all God’s “people on earth?” So now let’s exclude any whose will may not be deigned good enough? How about praying for “SOME people?” Or to exclude more, how about praying for “the FEW of good will?”

    I miss Vatican II. I miss the “catholic” part of the Church. The new liturgy is designed to be listened to, not participated in. Then again, I am a lowly parishioner. Like the rest of the American Catholic-lowly-parishioner-population, I was not consulted, nor my opinions worthy of consideration.

    In this Pope I have hope.

  4. I was pleasantly surprised to read the name of the author of the above letter in The Tablet last week. I remember reading the chapter “A cold wind from Rome” from his 2009 book “It’s the Eucharist, Thank God” ages ago, and since then I had only heard him referenced in the past tense and had thought he was no longer with us.

    I, like him it seems, find parts of this saga particularly intriguing. That a bishop, so closely tied to the work of ICEL and the 1998 translation, still speaks of the wrongs of the various Vatican departments, confirming what many suspected of the power games that were at play, is telling. I doubt it was any sense of bitterness that drove him to put pen to paper last week but more a sense of duty to make the wider community aware that all is not well with what Rome has imposed. Throwing two years at it does not make it any better.

    My own view remains that a theft is being perpetuated by people who should know better. The noble simplicity of language has gone and the truth about God has been obscured. And I don’t understand why.

    Bishop Taylor’s letter implies the 1998 translation is valid, whereas the current one, in that it still hasn’t formally been approved by the various Bishops’ Conferences after Vox Clara’s numerous changes, is invalid. I wonder if there are any bishops in English-speaking dioceses who would share this understanding and also be brave enough to take it to its logical conclusion and recommend usage of the 1998 text. We are called to take risks in life. Pope Francis said as much.

  5. @Christopher William McAvoy – comment #7:

    “With all thats been improved, it’s fine to improve more”

    And that is all I, for one, am hoping for: to continue to revisit, review and revise as appropriate, because as you say, the 2011 translation is NOT without flaws, and I doubt there are many who want to just “revert backwards.”

    Speaking of which…

    It is rather curious to observe that when it comes to the translation issue, for some people, it is “wrong” to argue, ” the current translation is flawed; therefore, we must go back to the older version!”, but when it comes to liturgy as a whole, those same people often consider it perfectly reasonable to argue, “the current liturgy is flawed; therefore, we must go back to the older form!”

    Not saying you are one of those people, of course; just that I’ve always found their way of thinking kinda peculiar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *