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Online Edition - Vol. VII, No. 4: June 2001

Initial responses to the Holy See's strong statement on liturgical translation were varied and revealing. Although Liturgiam Authenticam has been called a "victory for conservatives", this is not a political struggle for control ("conservative" Vatican vs. "liberal" Bishops) as some insistently portray it. The comments that follow, gleaned from both secular and Catholic press accounts, though their viewpoints are diverse, reveal surprising agreement on the key importance of translation in the transmission of thought, of ideas. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

The dispute over translation is about ideas in this case, the core teachings of the Catholic Church. Liturgiam Authenticam makes it clear that Scriptural and liturgical translations affect the very heart of the Catholic faith itself; and that the words used to express that faith matter deeply. What underlies the conflict over liturgical translation is, finally, authentic vs. inauthentic belief.

-- Editor

***

Nicole Winfield, Rome correspondent, Associated Press

"The Vatican has issued new guidelines for translating liturgical texts, clamping down on the use of politically correct 'inclusive' language that has flourished in recent years in parts of the English-speaking world".

(AP wire service story, May 8)

***

Ann Rodgers-Melnick, religion writer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

"[T]he Vatican has laid down new rules that repudiate the efforts of U.S. bishops to provide liturgical and biblical texts that are more friendly to women. The document also asserts Vatican control over a translation committee that English-speaking bishops rely on for liturgical texts".

("Vatican rejects obscuring male, female terms in translations", Pittsburgh P-G, May 10)

***

Cathleen Falsani, religion reporter, Chicago Sun-Times:

"The Vatican wants to make English and other translations of the liturgy what is said during Catholic services truer to the Latin in which they originally were written. The document also targets the so-called gender-inclusive language translations of liturgies and texts that have become popular in recent years, particularly in the United States. Not since the Second Vatican Council in 1963 said Catholics around the world could celebrate Mass in their native languages has there been a plan for such sweeping change in the liturgy".

("Vatican Goes Back to Basics", Sun-Times, May 10, 2001)

***

John Norton and Jerry Filteau, National Catholic Reporter; Catholic News Service:

"[Father James] Moroney said the instruction still would permit inclusive translations, like 'Happy the one...' instead of 'Happy the man...' where the original text clearly intended to communicate men and women".

("Vatican insists on larger liturgy role", NCR, May 18.)

***

John Allen, Rome correspondent, National Catholic Reporter:

"Critics say the document strikes at the heart of Vatican II ecclesiology by centralizing power in the curia and by insisting that local cultures adopt an essentially Roman style of worship".

("New document replaces 35 years of liturgy work - Liturgiam Authenticam: A power grab or fulfillment of Vatican II vision?", NCR, May 25, 2001)

***

Editorial, National Catholic Reporter:

"Under the guise of fostering a 'sacred style' Vatican bureaucrats have upended the understanding of Vatican II as put into practice by bishops from English-speaking countries and an approach to translation personally endorsed by the late Pope Paul VI.

"In this case, certain functionaries, in league with the most reactionary elements in local churches, could not tolerate movement toward inclusive language.

"The latest assault on the work of bishops and professional liturgists illustrates why significant church leaders have risked their reputations in recent years to call for decentralization of power".

("Bureaucrats upend liturgical renewal", NCR, May 25)

***

Call To Action Statement:

"Call To Action and other progressive Catholics, including clergy and lay people, say the language of Liturgiam Authenticam is a slap in the face to Catholics worldwide. Call To Action is concerned about the implications for Catholics who will be seriously affected by the changes. In addition, they see the Vatican document as a way the Roman Curia is continuing to clamp down and control the English-speaking world of Catholicism, including the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has made strides forward in liturgical, church and social justice issues".

(CTA web site May 9)

***

Cardinal Francis George, US bishops' representative to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy [ICEL]:

"The new document says that what is most important is fidelity to the original. There is a shift".

(Chicago Sun-Times, May 10)

"Regarding ICEL's future [its provisional constitution will have to be] recast in light of this new document from Rome".

(quoted in National Catholic Register, "Vatican calls for changes to Mass", by Brian Maguire, May 10)

***

Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee of the Liturgy:

"It is somewhat more restrictive ... but it is the result of the testing of time over these 30 years that has shown some inadequacies in the earlier document".

(Associated Press, May 8)

"It does not break any substantially new ground. It repeats the guiding criterion of literalness".

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10)

***

Bishop Donald Trautman, Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Doctrine and former chairman of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy:

"I would have preferred that there would have been consultation on the document with the different bishops' conferences throughout the world. There was no consultation that I know of".

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10)

***

Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, President, National Conference of Catholic Bishops:

"The Instruction clearly states the principles which will guide episcopal conferences in the translation of future liturgical texts. The principles reflect the discussions the English-speaking conferences have had with the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments over a considerable period of time. It is now our hope and expectation that there will be a much quicker approval of liturgical texts that are submitted to the Congregation.

"[I hope to] continue the discussion between the Congregation and the conferences regarding the role of mixed commissions such as ICEL".

(Statement, USCC Communications, www.nccbuscc.org, May 8)

***

Father James Moroney, executive director of the US bishops' Secretariat for Liturgy and consultor to the CDW:

"Almost every paragraph of [Liturgiam Authenticam] concerns subjects that I've heard bishops of the United States discussing over the past five, ten years. Certainly the document provides in the name of the Holy See a significant milestone in defining the answers to questions that have been raised.

"It's clear that many people will see this in terms of power, but I see no monsters here".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 18)

"The entire work is translation, and any technique that fails to translate precisely and completely what is contained in the source text is not appropriate".

(National Catholic Register, May 20)

"Liturgiam Authenticam is a direct, organic development of the vision of the Council fathers. [It still permits] moderate inclusive language".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 25)

***

Unnamed source in Congregation for Divine Worship:

"The changes would bring the English translations in line with other translations, which nearly all use literal language".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 18)

***

Helen Hull Hitchcock, director, Women for Faith and Family; editor, Adoremus Bulletin:

 "Words really do matter. Since the Church's truth is transmitted through words, [accurate translation is] so important".

(Associated Press, May 8)

***

The Reverend Thomas Reese, SJ, editor, America:

"It's really micromanaging the whole translation process. It's saying that the bishops in their own countries don't know their own languages well enough to do their own translations".

(Associated Press, May 8)

"They just threw out 30 years of practice, and all of the other norms, and put this in instead. I think it's a disaster. ...

"There are some right-wing Catholics who have complained to Rome and who have done an end run around the bishops' conference. I think there is some real paranoia in the Vatican about radical feminists somehow taking over the church, so that anything that looks like it's responding to the concerns of women about inclusive language, they see as dangerous".

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10)

***

The Reverend Joseph Fessio, SJ, editor, Ignatius Press:

"It's being said by some that this is Rome interfering with the U.S. bishops and the scholars in the United States. But ... the fact is that there are bishops who have differing views and scholars who have differing views. When that happens, Rome is a proper forum for a decision between the competing views".

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 10)

"[It will prevent] both a Balkanization into national or ethnic churches, and a cultural imperialism in which elites from the First World impose their ideosyncracies on less influential nations".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 25)

***

The Rev. Mark Francis, CSV, Catholic Theological Union, co-author of Liturgy for the New Millennium:

"Liturgiam Authenticam is a form of Western Colonialism masquerading as ecclesial unity. It doesn't reflect those 35 years [of experience since the Council], it wants to wipe them out".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 25)

***

The Reverend Keith Pecklers, SJ, Pontifical Liturgical Institute; co-author of Liturgy for the New Millennium:

"To not inculturate is to die. The problem with the document is that it critiques ideologies, but is itself heavily ideological. It does not represent the mainstream of the Catholic church in the post-counciliar years. [It will have] a very short shelf life".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 25)

***

The Reverend Frank Quinn, OP, Aquinas Institute, St. Louis; ICEL music committee member:

"[Liturgiam Authenticam is] the end of the [ICEL] commission as we have known it. Profoundly sad".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 25)

***

The Reverend Ed Foley OFM.Cap., Catholic Theological Union, Chicago; We Believe! founder/director:

"[The document] has an overriding concern for procedures and control".

(National Catholic Reporter, May 25)

***

The Rev. M. Francis Mannion, director, Society for Catholic Liturgy; Mundelein Liturgical Institute:

"If we constantly translate the Church's liturgical language into the vernacular in a way which is immediately accessible to the people ... we are not serving them because they are not getting the Roman liturgy; they are getting an adaptation of it".

(National Catholic Register, May 20)

***

John Page, executive secretary, ICEL:

"[T]hey're going to be asking for changes in texts that people have come to know by heart over the last 35 years.... If they're going to press those things, it really gets down to the people in the pews".

(Chicago Sun-Times, May 10)

"This [Instruction] speaks about a new era. It seems to continue in the direction of giving the Roman authorities greater say.... [It] seems to be moving more toward strengthening the authority of the Congregation at the expense of the authority of the bishops' conference....

"Certainly ICEL has made an effort to use language that is inclusive of men and women insofar as that can be done. The question there is, is that the living language"?

(National Catholic Register, May 20)

***

Linda Pieczynski, president, Call to Action:

"All this shows is tremendous ignorance on the part of the Vatican in terms of language".

(Associated Press, May 8)

"This document will further alienate women in the Catholic Church, especially those who feel called to liturgical roles and the priesthood. It is really a self-destructive act by the Vatican".

(CTA web site, May 9)

"It just seems like such nitpicking.... It makes us look we're arguing about how many angels can fit on the end of a pin when the world is in turmoil".

(Chicago Sun-Times, May 10)

***

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