Sep 15, 2005

Bishop Asks for Correction, Context

Online Edition – September 2005

Vol. XI, No. 6

Bishop Asks for Correction, Context

In a letter dated July 27, 2005, Bishop Donald Trautman (Erie), Chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, asked that we correct a quotation that appeared in a sidebar on page 3 of the June issue, in connection with an article, “New Lectionary Review Process Reveals ‘Inclusivizing’ Influence — Again”.

The article reported Bishop Trautman’s warning about “divisive forces outside the bishops’ conference”, and it mentioned the views of members of the Catholic Biblical Association (CBA) concerning the 2001 translation Instruction, Liturgiam authenticam. The sidebar contained quotations about Liturgiam authenticam from several individuals and organizations, including the CBA statement.

Bishop Trautman’s July 27 letter is quoted below in full, followed by our response of August 3:

Dear Mrs. Hitchcock:

I write in regard to your recent publication of the Adoremus Bulletin (June 2005 Vol. XI, No. 4), which included the following quote:

The Authentic Liturgy is truly an embarrassment. What can be done? The church has in its possession a blemished but authoritative document released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and approved by the Holy Father. It is not realistic to expect that it will be rescinded.” Bishop Donald Trautman, America magazine, October 22, 2001

I believe you have rendered a great disservice to myself by taking the first sentence of the above cited quotation out of its original context, and even joining it to the subsequent paragraph of my article. In context, my original statement was limited to the use of the Neo-Vulgate in the Book of Sirach and comments by Father Alexander DiLella, O.F.M. and the Executive Board of the Catholic Biblical Association.

In the interest of fairness, I ask that there be a correction in your next publication with the same prominence as the original out of context statement.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Donald Trautman
Bishop of Erie
Chairman (Secretariat for the Liturgy)

Dear Bishop Trautman:
Thank you for your letter of July 27 concerning the quote from your article in America (“The Quest for Authentic Liturgy”) that appeared in the Adoremus Bulletin (June 2005, p 3).

Your letter objected to our citing your comment about Liturgiam authenticam out of context, and you asked that we print a correction “with the same prominence as the original out of context statement”.

We are sorry that you thought this was a “disservice” to you, as this certainly was not our intention. We thought the quote accurately represented your views expressed in that article.

We will be glad to provide a more extensive quote from your article that makes the context clear, as well as a link to your complete article on the America web site. It will appear prominently in the next issue of Adoremus Bulletin, as you requested in your letter.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Helen Hull Hitchcock
Editor, Adoremus Bulletin

Accordingly, the context of the quote we cited appears in the sidebar here, along with a link to the complete text of Bishop Trautman’s article on the America web site.

Further Context
The bishop’s comments cited here focus on criticism of the Neo-Vulgate (Nova Vulgata), the approved Latin version of the Bible that Liturgiam authenticam said should be consulted when there is a question about arrangement or versification of biblical texts. But his comments in the America article questioned other aspects of the Instruction as well.

“The non-collegial, centralizing and controlling nature of the document is evident throughout”, Bishop Trautman wrote, and he criticized Holy See for not consulting bishops in selecting Liturgiam authenticam’s authors, and for interfering with the bishops’ conferences in selecting translators of liturgical texts.

The bishop had made similar criticisms of the Holy See in an earlier America article, “ICEL and Rome” (March 4, 2000) on the restructuring of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). That article had occasioned a response, also published in America, by Cardinal Jorge Medina Estévez, then-prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

“Inclusive” language, which Bishop Trautman strongly advocates, was another focus of his article, “The Quest for Authentic Liturgy” .

“Why does The Authentic Liturgy [Liturgiam authenticam] forbid inclusive language when the use of inclusive language actually results in a more faithful, more accurate translation?” he asks.

“Whether we like it or not, in the English-speaking world exclusive language has become objectionable”, the bishop writes. “If liturgical and biblical texts are proclaimed in words not resonating with contemporary culture, they fail to communicate. Such texts also fail the doctrinal mission of the church, since they do not teach clearly that both men and women are included integrally in the original text”.

Bishop Trautman’s comments on the use of the Neo-Vulgate (see sidebar) echo the Catholic Biblical Association’s statement addressed “to the prelates of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops” issued in August 2001.

The CBA was sharply critical of Liturgiam authenticam, faulting it for “inclusive language” reasons as well as the status it accorded the Neo-Vulgate Bible. (See “Group demands revision of Instruction on translation”, AB September 2001.) The complete CBA statement is accessible on its web site (, which also has a link to Bishop Trautman’s article.

This public criticism also elicited a response from the Holy See. In November 2001, Cardinal Medina responded to a bishop who had asked for clarification about the use of the Neo-Vulgate. The cardinal’s letter was published in the Congregation’s official publication, Notitiae. It responded to the CBA’s criticisms, point for point.

Specifically addressing the example of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) stressed by the CBA and Bishop Trautman’s second America article, Cardinal Medina’s commentary states:

In the case of variations in textual traditions Nova Vulgata offers necessary datum.

At the same time, it might also be noted that a more complex problem arises in some parts of the Bible where available ancient manuscripts, either in the original languages or in early translations, display variations that seem not to stem merely from copying or translation errors, glosses and the like, but rather, to indicate parallel but divergent textual traditions. Such a divergence is evident, for example, between the Hebrew and the Greek texts of Samuel, where the translator may thus be faced not only with the question of which tradition to follow, but whether it is possible to resolve difficulties in one text by resort to the other. Similarly, the text of Sirach has been handed down to us in several distinct principle manuscript traditions, both Hebrew and Greek, and there is no Hebrew text that transmits the entire book. In fact, the discovery of new manuscripts, such as those made in the last century near the Dead Sea, have only brought this general difficulty of multiple traditions into greater relief. For the preparation of a Lectionary, then, the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam provides a sure basis for navigating through a forest of options as provided by the textual data for such parts of the Scriptures, and for choosing accurately the text prescribed for the Sacred Liturgy, where a certain textual unity is simply a necessity. The text to be translated is to be one that corresponds to the manuscript tradition reflected in the Nova Vulgata. (emphasis added)

— Notitiae, vol. 37, Nov-Dec 2001
(For complete text see

The discussion surrounding the translation of Scripture and liturgical texts often seems unduly complicated — and it is made even more difficult to follow because the discussion is ordinarily carried on in a variety of published sources.

We agree with Bishop Trautman that the context of this discussion is very important in understanding the issues involved and the significance of the arguments involving translated texts.

It is especially crucial now. At this moment there are two key translation projects in process: 1) a new English translation of the Roman Missal, third edition, issued in Latin in 2000; and 2) a review and revision of the Lectionary (Scripture readings for Mass), in use in the United States since 2002, and a separate but similar process with the Lectionaries of other English-speaking countries.

The purpose of Liturgiam authenticam, the Fifth Instruction on the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, is to assure that sound principles are followed in producing vernacular translations of the Bible and the Missal — for this is fundamental in our quest for authentic liturgy.


Bishop Donald Trautman — from “The Quest for Authentic Liturgy”

In paragraph 37 of The Authentic Liturgy, biblical scholarship suffers a major setback. The Neo-Vulgate, a Latin critical edition of St. Jerome’s translation, becomes the determining factor for those versions of Scripture to be used in liturgy. According to The Authentic Liturgy, the Latin New Vulgate edition is the authoritative text of reference for all Bible passages, including those “with varying manuscript traditions”. Imagine — a non-inspired text, based on deficient manuscripts of the fourth century, superceding an inspired text! How in conscience can a Scripture scholar follow this norm? The encyclical letter of Pope Pius XII, Divino Afflante Spiritu, cogently states: “The original text which, having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any, even the very best, translation, whether ancient or modern” (No. 16).

Consider the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiastes) [sic]. Alexander DiLella, O.F.M., of The Catholic University — a specialist on the Book of Sirach — has demonstrated that the Book of Sirach in the Neo-Vulgate has more “variants, glosses, and interpolations than any book of the Latin Bible.” How then can this Neo-Vulgate text become the absolute norm for scriptural texts used in the liturgy? The Authentic Liturgy is simply wrong in making the Neo-Vulgate the primary authority for translators of Biblical texts for the liturgy. The executive board of the Catholic Biblical Association, composed of our foremost biblical scholars, concurs with this judgment. Making the Neo-Vulgate the final arbiter in textual questions, when it is clearly known that the Vulgate is based on deficient original texts, appears to be a disservice to the Scripture scholarship and the high standards of the Holy See. In this regard, The Authentic Liturgy is truly an embarrassment.

What can be done? The church has in its possession a blemished but authoritative document released by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments and approved by the Holy Father. It is not realistic to expect that it will be rescinded. For the sake of the church and its scholarship, it should at least be reviewed formally by the Pontifical Biblical Commission. Furthermore, to resolve the serious and fundamental questions raised by this document, a group of bishops — including bishops with liturgical and biblical backgrounds, bishop representatives of national and international translating commissions, other biblical and liturgical specialists designated by the conferences of bishops, and representatives of the Holy See — needs to meet to plan for implementation of the document at the local level. No one questions the need for a careful, well-reasoned document to assist in the challenging task of providing the church’s vernacular texts. After study and broad consultation, the document could be refined and made more complete and exact in its vision, especially with reference to the Neo-Vulgate. This would help all fulfill the words of St. Paul: “Come to some mutual understanding in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2).

Pope John Paul II in Novo Millennio Ineunte refers to the Second Vatican Council as “the great grace bestowed on the church in the twentieth century.” He calls the council “a sure compass by which we take our bearings in the century now beginning.” The Authentic Liturgy uses a different compass, since it points away from the liturgical and biblical renewal of Vatican II. In many aspects the document is a disappointment; its compass needs to be reset.

Bishop Trautman’s article appeared in America magazine October 22, 2001 (Vol 185, No 12), and is accessible on the internet by following this link: 1162&issueID=347



The Editors