At the website of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments [CDW] is a very fine article on collaboration between the Curia and bishops’ conferences in the area of liturgical translations. It is by Fr. Giacomo Incitti, professor of canon law at Urbaniana University and consultor of the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, and also reported to be a member of the committee the pope appointed to re-examine Liturgiam authenticam.
The Vatican website has it up in both Italian and English. Here it is in English: “Magnum Principium: For a Better Mutual Collaboration between the Roman Curia and Bishops’ Conferences.”
Fr. Incitti recalls the teachings of the Second Vatican Council that the Roman curia is at the service of the pope and of the world’s bishops, noting that doctrinal development on the juridical and doctrinal authority of bishops’ conferences is “ongoing.”
The central issue is the nature of the action taken by Rome when bishops’ conferences submit translation The recognitio on the part of the Vatican authorities involves an attentive and detailed examination of a submission, but the confirmatio does not.
The main take-away on the significance of Pope Francis’s motu proprio Magnum Principium [MP] is that vernacular translations require only confirmatio from Rome now, and no longer recognitio. Adaptations, on the other hand, still require the Roman recognitio.
|Before MP:||Now, since MP:|
|Translations required from Rome:||recognitio||confirmatio|
|Adaptations require from Rome:||recognitio||recognitio|
Incitti is critical of Vatican overreach. There is this, for example:
“Liturgiam authenticam no. 80 was contrary to the Code [of Canon law] and thus gave rise to an abusive practice, whereby it was foreseen that ‘The practice of seeking the recognitio from the Apostolic See for all translations of liturgical books accords the necessary assurance of the authenticity of the translation…’” Yes, he wrote “abusive.”
Incitti sees Francis’s move from recognitio to confirmatio as a “return to the reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium.” Indeed,
“[T]he Motu Proprio itself establishes its governing criteria: return to the Council.”
The charge has been made by some that Vatican II was betrayed by a “spirit of the Council” or a “Council of the media.” This charge usually comes from quarters calling for more Roman surveillance and less regional diversity. Incitti’s piece suggests that a return to the Council might in fact mean a move in the opposite direction.
Incitti reminds us that it was proposed during Vatican II – and rejected – that territorial authorities (later called episcopal conferences) would propose to the Holy See whether and to what extent vernacular would be used. The Council decided, rather, that bishops themselves would make this decision, and their decision would in turn be approved, i.e. confirmed, by the Apostolic see. Not recognized.
As Incitti wryly puts it,
“It does not require a great effort to understand that the terminology chosen by Pope Francis takes up that of the Council.”
At Vatican II a council father asked whether translations from Latin into vernacular were to be submitted to the Holy See for approval. The Commission drafting the liturgy constitution replied that this was not the case. According to Incitti, the liturgy constitution “establishes that the exclusive competence [for approval of translations] lies with the local church authority, no intervention on the part of the Apostolic See being foreseen.”
Then here’s a fascinating bit of church politics. The apostolic letter Liturgiam sacram of Paul VI of January 25, 1964, as published in L’Osservatore Romano, said that vernacular translations were to be recognoscendas and probandas – “reviewed and approved” in the translation now at the Vatican website. The recognitio was already back – only a few weeks after the fathers of Vatican II had decided otherwise!
Council fathers protested this reversion by the pope to the wording which they had just explicitly rejected at the Council. In response to the outcry, the text of the pope’s letter was changed when it was officially promulgated in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, so that the role of the Apostolic See is again to “approve, that is confirm” (probanda, seu confirmanda) the decision by the bishops to approve translations. (This is not the version at the Vatican website.)
In Incitti’s view, the “recognitio” that made its way back into canon 838 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law “lacked sufficient justification.” So Francis has now removed it from canon law.
Incitti considers it “wise counsel” that involvement of the Curia in approving translations should be avoided, “based on a lack of competence in all the necessary languages.” As he comments in a footnote, “How many students in Roman faculties, from so-called mission territories, were involved … in evaluating the translations approved by their Bishops!” Might as well name that too.
At the conclusion of this study, it would seem reasonable to place Magnum principium within the context of Pope Francis’s ongoing work of renewal in the Church. … The ‘motu proprio’ favors collaboration between the Roman Curia and the Conferences of Bishops, reestablishing the criterion indicated by the Council according to which the translation of liturgical texts is not the competence of the Roman Curia but of the Bishops united in their Conference. It is on the Bishops… that there falls not only the duty but the responsibility of translation, which, precisely because it is a fruit of their episcopal office enjoys, of its nature, the presumption of fidelity. To the Apostolic See there remains the duty of the confirmatio.