Feb 15, 2000

ICEL Snapshots

Online Edition – Vol. V, No. 10: February 2000

ICEL Snapshots

The following quotations, from various members of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), document its consistent intention of implementing "inclusive language" to the maximum extent possible in liturgical texts and Biblical translations.

"ICEL has consciously and intentionally implemented principles of inclusive language since 1975…. At its August 1975 meeting: ‘The Advisory Committee recognized the necessity in all future translations and revisions to avoid words which ignore the place of women in the Christian community altogether or which seem to relegate women to a secondary role’. Neither the origins of this statement nor discussion surrounding it are recorded. However, it has been the benchmark for all further ICEL work on the liturgical texts, and has been reiterated on numerous occasions."

J. Frank Henderson; ICEL Advisory Committee member (1978-85), subcommittee on "discriminatory language" and chairman of subcommittee on translations and revisions. "ICEL and Inclusive Language", Shaping English Liturgy (1990. The Pastoral Press. pp 260-262).

"It is true that in some communities, where there is a higher degree of education things are being discussed by a certain group of people who because they are experts in liturgy, or Latin, or Biblical studies, do influence the work the Church does. Many of them are taking these opinions. Not the Goddess, I don’t think anyone involved with ICEL would go that far. We certainly don’t use language like ‘Goddess’ or referring to God as She. Some people want to refer to the Holy Spirit as She."

John L. Page, Executive Secretary of ICEL; interview by Robert J. Hutchinson, "Whether ‘Tis Nobler In the Mind", Catholic World Report. August, 1992, p. 37. 

"[T]he text [of the ICEL Psalter] was entirely free of gender-exclusive pronouns for God. Before the imprimatur was granted, however, the committee insisted that the translators use male pronouns for God in a very few places."

Gabe Huck, Editor of the ICEL Psalter and of Liturgy Training Publications, in the Editor’s Foreword, The Psalter (1994. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications. p ix).

"By means of this decree the imprimatur of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, granted in January 1995 to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy’s The Liturgical Psalter, is hereby revoked.. The January 1995 rescript may no longer be printed in The Liturgical Psalter, and there should be made no representation that the text carries the approval of this episcopal conference as mandated by canon 825.1."

Bishop Anthony Pilla, President, NCCB; Statement of August 6, 1998, published in Origins, September 3, 1998, p. 215.

"[The ICEL Pastoral Introduction] minimizes the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence; it overlooks the sacrificial nature of the Mass; and it confuses the role of the ordained priest with that of the priesthood of the faithful."

-Eleven US bishops, Statement on ICEL’s proposed Pastoral Introduction to the Order of Mass (PIOM); quoted in "New Liturgical Books Coming Soon", Adoremus Bulletin, October 1999.

"Academic liturgists as church professionals are not powerful enough to control what occurs in the imaginations of Christian assemblies. But we can influence decisions about what images are set out before believers if we are willing to do the hard work of research and critical reflection."

"ICEL style also took shape under the influence of contemporary discussions about linguistic gender among literary theorists, biblical interpreters and theologians. Who could deny the impression of many translations that the poetry of the psalms gives overt voice to male devotees interacting with a putatively male God."

Sister Mary Collins, OSB; ICEL Psalter project chairman, former chairman of Religious Studies, Catholic University of America; since 1999 superior of the Benedictine Community, Atchison, Kansas. "Naming God in Public Prayer", Worship Vol. 59, 1985, pp.291-304; "Glorious Praise: The ICEL Liturgical Psalter", Worship, July, 1992, p 300-301.

"I have come to recognize that much of our language is no longer adequate to name my experience of God, yet I am afraid to lose the God of my childhood, the God who has served me well".

Sister Kathleen Hughes, RSCJ, former chairman of ICEL subcommittee on original texts. "Where Do We Go Now?" in Disciples at the Crossroads: Perspectives on Worship and Church Leadership (1993. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press).

"I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a project that has quite extraordinary ramifications, historical and societal, beyond anything I could have envisaged…. We seldom refer to God as ‘Him’ or ‘Father’, and in general we avoid personal pronouns. There are odd occasions where the word "Pater" occurs in Latin and sometimes you can’t get around using the word "Father". But in general, we have been very meticulous in keeping to the principle of inclusive language."

Dr. Ken Larsen, one of the two principal translators of the ICEL Sacramentary revision, quoted in "New Zealand Ex-Priest Translates Mass for ICEL", Adoremus Bulletin, Feb. 1997.

"Over the course of the 1980s, ICEL also studied the question of masculine language used of God…. Where doctrinal or linguistic considerations allowed, the revisions have avoided the use of masculine pronouns to refer to the First and Third Persons of the Trinity. In both the translated and original prayers an effort has been made to use a larger variety of titles and images for God in order to open up a greater sense of the mystery and majesty of the Godhead."

ICEL, The Third Progress Report to the NCCB on the Revision of the Roman Missal (1992) p. 10.

"To keep on believing requires that we learn the patience to live with the debris of all the unlivable images of God that have littered down around us. Except for the mystical or philosophical few, God is never God in Godself, but the God of ourselves and our world."

"Marked as our ritual patterns are by the experience of the past, they are inevitably shaped by the past images of God, which fail in the face of contemporary experience…. Enough remains of the old patterns to give us a link with the past, while the openings created by Vatican II give us room to find new images of God in our prayer."

"We have to sort out what elements of the inherited wisdom we will carry with us and what elements we must discard as no longer fitting for the new situation. This is the task we now face with our inherited ritual. It is put in our hands to do an immense work of reinterpretation, in ways of doing as well as in ways of thinking."

Ralph A. Keifer, ICEL General Editor (1971-72) ,acting Executive Secretary (1972-73) during the original translation of the Sacramentary. The Mass in Time of Doubt: The Meaning of the Mass for Catholics Today (1983. Washington: National Asociation of Pastoral Musicians, pp 7; 41; 48).


The Editors