On December 6th, The Tablet carried this letter to the editor from Bishop Emeritus Crispian Hollis, who was bishop of Portsmouth, England, from 1989 to 2012.
I am grateful for the correspondence about the current translation of our liturgical texts and for Eamon Duffy’s cogent article, “Broken English” (2 December). It has given me an opportunity to look back and to regret deeply that I did not take the discussions in the Bishops’ Conference about the translations more seriously.
There were notable exceptions to the consensus among the bishops about the new translations but I think Eamon Duffy is right when he writes that most of us were content “to let sleeping dogs lie.” With the benefit of hindsight, I confess that I was wrong and am therefore partly responsible for the appalling texts with which we have now been saddled. I am sorry!
I am regularly engaged in supplying Masses in our local Clifton parishes and I now constantly have to adapt or change the texts with which we are presented because, as they stand, they are so often unintelligible or so clumsy as to be virtually unusable.
If, as I understand it, Magnum Principium gives the Bishops’ Conference the opportunity to think again, and revisit the 1998 Missal, then such a move would have my full support and encouragement. The matter is urgent; things will not get better and we need to think again.
But then, I am only a retired bishop!
Emeritus Bishop of Portsmouth
“Broken English” is a recent article in The Tablet by Eamon Duffy, Emeritus Professor of Christian History at the University of Cambridge. Duffy had sharply criticized the inaccurate translations of the 1973/1974 Sacramentary/Missal and raise his voice loudly to call for translations more accurate and more beautiful. Obviously, his judgment is that the 2011 Missal, inspired by the Roman document Liturgiam authenticam, fails at this. He writes that ” Liturgiam Authenticam was a crass and ill-informed document,” and that the withering critique of it by conservative liturgist Peter Jeffery “should be required reading in every seminary.” His conclusion is sharp: “The Missal we have suffered since 2011 was a disastrously misconceived project, imposed on a reluctant episcopate. By retaining it, the bishops are saddling us for the foreseeable future with an ugly and alienating version of what should be the Church’s most fundamental school of prayer.”
There is also a letter to The Tablet from Paul Smyth CMF, writing as President and on behalf of the Executive of the Conference of Religious of England and Wales, expressing “disappointment at the announcement by the Bishops of England and Wales that the current translation of the Roman Missal will be retained for use.”