Oct 15, 1999

New Liturgical Books Coming Soon

Online Edition – Vol. V, No. 7: October 1999

New Liturgical Books Coming Soon

Will the Vatican’s new Roman Missal affect ICEL’s "Pastoral Introduction"?

by Helen Hitchcock and Susan Benofy

Two recent announcements concerning the revision of the Roman Missal have raised new questions about the already complicated and confusing process of producing new and revised liturgical books.

The Vatican will release the third edition of the Roman Missal before the end of the year, and Vatican guidelines for the celebration of Mass are undergoing final edits. More liturgical books will appear during the Jubilee Year.

The US Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy [BCL](1) will ask the bishops to seek Vatican permission to publish a different set of guidelines, the Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass [PIOM], a part of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy’s [ICEL’s] proposed revision of the Roman Missal sent to the Vatican for required approval this year.

The news about the new Roman Missal came from Bishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in an interview published in September.

The members of the BCL announced their plans to urge approval of ICEL’s work as a "separate catechetical fascicle" in the BCL Newsletter this summer.

How are these two announcements related? What might be the effect on the celebration of Mass in our parishes? And why urge approval of a document some bishops consider "theologically unsound"?

Revising Liturgical Books

A review of the procedures for producing new English-language versions of the Roman Missal may help provide some insights.

During most of the 1990’s, the US National Conference of Catholic Bishops [NCCB] and other English-speaking conferences have voted on text after text proposed for revision.

The new translations would replace the original English texts in use since the early 1970s.

This process of revising the Roman Missal was necessarily time consuming. First, it involved re-translation of the biblical texts used for the Lectionary, or Scripture readings for Mass. It involved liturgists who re-translated the Latin Missal prayers and composed new English-language texts for the Sacramentary, or prayers of the Mass.

These revised books, the Lectionary and the Sacramentary, which together comprise the Roman Missal, were first approved by the liturgy committee of the NCCB, then presented to the bishops for their approval. Both books also require approval by the Vatican.

The first volume of the new Lectionary has been in use since last November, and there are two more volumes to come.

The proposed Sacramentary (including the Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass) was sent to the Vatican early this year. It has not yet been approved. Owing to the massive size and scope of the project of revising the Roman Missal, as well as the enormous number of changes proposed, the actual process was even more complex and confusing than the foregoing summary may suggest.

The Sacramentary imposed yet another layer of complexity. Unlike the Lectionary which is based on the New American Bible, a version under the control of the NCCB, the proposed new Sacramentary was produced by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy [ICEL], an international body of translators who also composed many new texts, prayers, and "Pastoral Introductions" to the various parts of the Mass.

The US bishops proposed hundreds of amendments to these ICEL books, most of which were rejected by their own liturgy committee. Amendments that were accepted (and those that survived a "special consideration" vote by the bishops) had to be incorporated into the proposed texts for additional review.

Because the Sacramentary’s texts affect all parts of the world where English is used in the liturgy, all adopted amendments also had to survive the further scrutiny of the ICEL translators. (Many did not.) After all the amendments and changes are incorporated, final versions of the revised texts are submitted to the Vatican. Then both the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments [CDW] and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF] review the proposals and determine whether further revisions are necessary before the required approval of the Holy See can be given.

The path has been uphill, often exhausting, and fraught with many twists, turns, and unanticipated detours, some of which have revealed unexpected agendas and led to new perspectives and insights. The debate showed that liturgical translation is not simply a matter of stylistic updating: it can affect fundamental Church teachings. It also revealed that there are disputes even among the bishops over many key matters of doctrine issues that remain unresolved, if more clearly in focus.

Lectionary Review

The journey is by no means over. The first volume of the revised Lectionary, in use since last November, is the only revised text so far to appear after a process that has lasted more than 10 years.

The Lectionary’s progress was delayed principally because of conflict over translation principles. In 1990, the bishops adopted Criteria for the Evaluation of Inclusive Language Translations of Scriptural Texts Proposed for Liturgical Use, in preparation for the revision of the Lectionary. The proposed new Lectionary reflecting these "inclusive language" Criteria was sent to the Holy See for approval in 1992. The Vatican’s review of the NAB New Testament and Psalm translations used for the revised Lectionary found them in need of correction (NT) or unsuitable for liturgical use (Psalms).

Vatican issues translation Norms

The Vatican also found it necessary to issue "Norms for the Translation of Biblical Texts for Use in the Liturgy", which stressed the primacy of fidelity to the original text.

"The Church must always seek to convey accurately in translation the texts she has inherited from the biblical, liturgical and patristic tradition and instruct the faithful in their proper meaning", the Norms stated.(3)

Originally given to translators in 1995, the Vatican Norms (called by some the "secret" norms at that time) were made public after they were sent to all bishops in June 1997. The Vatican Norms were a point-by-point negation of the US bishops’ 1990 Criteria. Although the Norms did not use the term "inclusive language", they did address such issues as grammatical gender and re-naming the persons of the Trinity, and conclusively closed off the possibility of using "inclusive language" devices for biblical translation.

Further corrections and revisions reflecting the Vatican Norms were made by a team of US bishops and Vatican experts, and at their November 1997 meeting the bishops approved the Lectionary text for a period of five years, in part because the Old Testament of the NAB is being revised. The first volume of the three-volume Lectionary was introduced last November, and the second volume is expected to appear soon.

Sacramentary Review

The Sacramentary, which is not yet approved by the Holy See, underwent a separate but simultaneous process. The proposed revision is based on the second "typical edition" of the Roman Missal and is the work of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy [ICEL].

ICEL’s translation principles were drawn from a 1967 document, Comme le prévoit , which has been criticized by one Vatican official as in need of replacement.

Furthermore, the texts contain material newly-composed by ICEL, including the Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass.

During the years of debate on the Sacramentary, the Holy See rejected ICEL’s translation of the Rite of Ordination, and thoroughly revised ICEL’s proposed Pastoral Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass. The Vatican will undoubtedly examine the Sacramentary translation (and ICEL’s original texts) equally closely, and no one is predicting how long this might take.

Meanwhile, although the Sacramentary is in limbo for the present, and recent history suggests that the Holy See will require many "revisions of the revisions", the present liturgical establishment is intent on a project of "catechesis" to "prepare" Catholics for the many changes in the Mass ICEL proposes.

The combined efforts of liturgical commissions and publishers, through a continuous stream of articles, bulletin inserts, lectures and conferences, are attempting to gain people’s advance acceptance of the proposed changes. Evidently they believe this will help achieve their objectives and influence the Vatican authorities’ decision.

Clearly, some bishops agree with this strategy (a few have actually complained of "Vatican interference"). But a good many bishops have also gained new insights about their own responsibility for the Church’s liturgy, and have accepted this responsibility with wisdom and courage.

But many questions remain and urging Vatican approval of the revised Sacramentary’s problematic Pastoral Introduction may be viewed by some as an attempt at an "end-run" around the Vatican.

ICEL’s Pastoral Introduction: Catechesis or Confusion?

The unanimous vote of the BCL to recommend that "the NCCB seek the consent of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to the publication of the Pastoral Introduction as a separate catechetical fascicle" took place at their June meeting, as reported by the BCL Newsletter [May-June 1999]. This request "does not prejudice the question of the eventual inclusion of the Pastoral Introduction in the revised Sacramentary", the report said.

The Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass is a summary of rubrics (liturgical directives) from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM] and other documents. It is not a translation of an existing document but an original work of ICEL. It was approved by the bishops for inclusion in the Sacramentary at their November 1995 meeting two years before the last texts were approved. But the bishops’ debate on the PIOM raised serious questions. And the new Roman Missal leads to others.

The New Roman Missal

The imminent release of the new third edition of the Roman Missal (editio typica) was announced by Bishop Tamburrino, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in an August 31 interview in Rome; but he did not mention what effect this might have on the proposed revisions of the second edition. (An editio typica, or "typical edition", is the Latin version authorized for the universal Church as the base text from which all translations are to be made.)

The new Roman Missal will have an Introduction (like the present GIRM) which, Bishop Tamburrino said, is still undergoing editorial changes. He said that the third edition of the Missal would contain no innovations, but would incorporate prayers for feasts of recently canonized saints, and responses to liturgical directives issued since the second edition.

Other books in preparation are a second edition of the Lectionary, a separate Book of Gospels, a guide for celebrating Mass for priests, and other liturgical texts. These books — all Latin "typical editions" — will be issued during the Jubilee year.

The new Roman Missal will be the third Latin edition since the Second Vatican Council. The first was issued in 1969. The second editio typica is the edition of the Roman Missal that ICEL revised for the proposed Sacramentary.


Will the new Roman Missal affect the status of ICEL’s Pastoral Introduction? Why would the BCL ask to publish the PIOM at this moment?

The official documentation given to bishops at their November 1995 meeting said that the Pastoral Introduction "is proposed by ICEL to the conferences of bishops", which "remain free to decide whether or not to incorporate the materials prepared by ICEL in the liturgical books which they approve for their territories".

If this new ICEL material is included as a part of the Sacramentary, it must be approved by Rome. But does this rule apply to also its Pastoral Introduction?

In fact, substantial sections of the ICEL Pastoral Introduction have already been published in the 1997 edition of Sourcebook for Sundays and Seasons published by Liturgy Training Publications of Chicago. The BCL granted permission without consulting Rome.

Bishops question PIOM, but most amendments fail

The bishops had submitted 232 amendments for this 147-paragraph document. Less than half were accepted by the committee. The standard procedure requires that amendments be specific changes to specific paragraphs.

In an unusual move, however, eleven bishops (including one cardinal) submitted amendments referring to the entire document. These amendments called the PIOM not only "unnecessary and confusing", but even "theologically unsound".

Three major deficiencies were specified: "1) it minimizes the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence, 2) it overlooks the sacrificial nature of the Mass, and 3) it confuses the role of the ordained priest with that of the priesthood of the faithful".

These same bishops prefaced 63 amendments with a comment that they thought the approval of the ICEL Pastoral Introduction "unwise" and specified that their amendments were intended to "make clearly manifest Catholic teaching with respect to the Mass".

Fifty-three of these amendments were rejected by the BCL, and its response to the 10 "accepted" amendments did not repair the deficiencies. In some cases amendments were rejected with the comment that the passage in question "is not intended as a doctrinal statement".

If any document is to be useful for catechesis, surely it must present clearly those doctrines which are not well understood by the people. Many indications — falling Mass attendance, loss of reverence, the lack of vocations, and various opinion polls — show that there is widespread ignorance or misunderstanding of the Real Presence, the sacrificial aspect of the Mass and the role of the priest. Of what use for catechetical purposes is a document deficient in exactly these points?

The ICEL Pastoral Introduction is primarily a document about rubrics, detailed directives on how Mass should be celebrated. These rubrics are mostly of interest to priests, deacons and others who have an official role in the liturgy.

It could be helpful to have reliable directives available, because many people are so confused by exposure to various deviant practices that they no longer know what the approved rubrics are. But the ICEL Pastoral Introduction is likely to cause further confusion.

In the process of revising the translation of the Mass, ICEL also proposed certain "adaptations". Since the bishops voted to include some of these changes in the revised Sacramentary, the PIOM included rubrics for these changes. All these changes must be approved by Rome.

If the PIOM, which contains instructions for liturgical changes, is published now, it will inevitably lead to the introduction of practices which are not approved by the Holy See. The pastoral problems this would create could be serious. Already many Catholics are distressed by innovations misrepresented as being "approved by the bishops".

Why rush the PIOM?

What is the point of publishing the PIOM as a "separate catechetical fascicle"?

That the PIOM is not meant to stand alone had been stressed in the explanatory material the bishops received in 1995. The second paragraph states: "This pastoral introduction is offered as a supplement to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal…. The pastoral introduction cannot be read apart from the General Instruction…."

And a few paragraphs later:

"The [pastoral] introduction presumes that the pastoral minister is familiar with the General Instruction. It is selective in augmenting this material for the English-speaking regions. Matters covered adequately for these regions in the General Instruction do not appear in the introduction".

This second paragraph, besides stressing the nature of the Pastoral Introduction as a supplement not to be considered in isolation, indicates that it is a document for "pastoral ministers". Even its authors do not suggest that it be used as a teaching resource.

Why would the BCL suggest as a catechetical aid a document some consider theologically deficient, which gives instructions for practices not approved by the Vatican, and which was never intended for publication apart from the GIRM?

The idea appears to have originated with the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions [FDLC].

Liturgists’ Voices

The FDLC is a national organization of directors of diocesan worship offices with official ties to the BCL. Its executive director is an ex officio advisor to the BCL. (The BCL’s present director, Father James Moroney, was FDLC president until 1996.)

The organization holds an annual convention at which it votes on Position Statements. These are propositions outlining action that the FDLC wants its own board or the BCL to undertake.

Past resolutions have included several supporting "inclusive" language, the implementation of Environment and Art in Catholic Worship, standing for the Eucharistic prayer, and a "vote of confidence" in support of the work of ICEL. The resolutions that pass are presented to the BCL, who may, in turn, present them to the bishops. The resolutions are often printed in the BCL Newsletter as well as in the FDLC Newsletter.

At the 1997 FDLC meeting in Seattle, this position statement, called Study and Preparation for the Introduction of the Revised Sacramentary, was proposed:

It is the position of the delegates to the 1997 National Meeting of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions that the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, upon confirmation of the revised Sacramentary, authorize immediate and separate publication of a study edition of the Pastoral Notes of the Sacramentary [PIOM] in order to facilitate the preparation for and welcome of the revised Sacramentary. [Passed +2.77].

The vote indicates enthusiasm. Delegates vote from -3 to +3.

The FDLC is intent on making their version of the "liturgical renewal" happen. They are already producing bulletin inserts for "catechesis" on changes in the liturgy they hope for.

In the November 1998 FDLC Newsletter, executive director Father Michael Spillane reported on meetings with other organizations to discuss collaboration on catechesis on the revised Sacramentary. Father Spillane and FDLC chairman, Father Ed Hislop, met with ICEL and the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. They later attended a workshop sponsored by New Ways Ministry and met with its director, Father Spillane reported.

In the same issue, Father Hislop discussed the approval of the Lectionary, which he views with "concern". He encouraged FDLC members to speak out in support of the ICEL Sacramentary:

We need to speak, as commissions, offices and as individuals. We need to support the work of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by sharing with them our support of the texts submitted by our bishops, by speaking of our need for these texts approved by our bishops and by clearly articulating our dedication and commitment to the continued Renewal of the Liturgy. We have something important to say and to write about. We have done the work, we have seen conversion and transformation, we have engaged in the struggle, we have grown in wisdom and in grace.

We have been busy and all too often we have been silent, while others, who seek to have the church move in a different direction, have been speaking loudly in every conceivable forum and writing volumes of letters. Our voice must be stronger, our voice must be loving, our voice must be wise, our voice must be persistent, and our voice must be heard…. The voice we raise is the voice of renewal and faith, it is the sound of hope and the promise of a vision that will surely come.

Obviously, the FDLC’s voice has been heard — at least by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy.

It seems clear, however, that publishing ICEL’s Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass now would be premature, and can only increase confusion.

The new editio typica of the Roman Missal will appear soon, with the Holy See’s own Introduction and guide for celebrating Mass. Who could be expected to distinguish which Introduction carries the authority of the Holy See and which is the work of a group of ICEL translators?

Confusion, obviously, is not good catechesis. Catechetical materials on the proposed revisions of the Mass should not be considered until after Rome has spoken.



1. Members of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy are Archbishops Jerome Hanus (Dubuque), chairman; Oscar Lipscomb (Mobile), chairman-elect; Justin Rigali (St. Louis); and Rembert Weakland (Milwaukee); Bishops Gerald Kicanas (auxiliary, Chicago); Leonard Olivier (auxiliary, Washington, DC); and Sylvester Ryan (Monterey). Father James Moroney is executive director; Mr. Dennis McManus and Sister Ann Rehrauer are associate directors; and Monsignor Frederick McManus is permanent consultant to the BCL.

2. Before the Council, the Missal used by the priest contained both the prayers for Mass and the Epistle and Gospel readings. Now the Roman Missal is divided into separate books: the Sacramentary, containing only the prayers, and the Lectionary, or Scripture readings.

3. Norms for the Translation of Biblical Texts for Use in the Liturgy, No 1. The key norm is No. 3: "The translation of Scripture should faithfully reflect the Word of God in the original human languages. It must be listened to in its time-conditioned, at times even inelegant, mode of human expression without ‘correction’ or ‘improvement’ in service of modern sensitivities". (See AB Vol. 3, No 5, July-August 1997. )


Helen Hitchcock is President of Women for Faith & Family and Editor of the Adoremus Bulletin. Susan Benofy is treasurer of Women for Faith & Family and Research Editor for the Adoremus Bulletin.



Helen Hull Hitchcock Susan F. Benofy