Online Edition – June 2006
Vol. XII, No. 4
NEWS & VIEWS
A clear indication of the importance of the English translation of the Roman Missal to the Catholic Church — and the critical vote of the US bishops conference — was in the advance attention it received before the June meeting of the US bishops, at which they would vote on the first section of the translation of the Missal, the Order of Mass, produced by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL).
On May 2, the bishops received a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on the requirements for translation. The letter, from Cardinal Francis Arinze to Bishop William Skylstad, president of the conference, strongly stressed the authority of Liturgiam authenticam, the Holy See’s fifth Instruction on implementation of the Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, to govern liturgical translations. The letter noted that just because a text had been in use for 35 years does not mean that it should supplant a more authentic translation. This letter from the Holy See followed a discussion on April 27 with USCCB president Skylstad, vice president Chicago Cardinal Francis George, and the USCCB general secretary.
A month earlier, Bishop Donald Trautman, current chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, had given a pair of talks — at St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota and at the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference — in which he repeated his consistent sharp criticism of Liturgiam authenticam that had appeared in several publications. The BCL chairman objected in particular to the use of “sacral language” in the proposed Missal translation by ICEL. (For a description of the proposed new translation and procedures for voting, see AB May 2006, “Bishops to Vote on Missal Translation”, p 3.)
In response to Cardinal Arinze’s May 2 letter, Bishop Trautman told a Catholic News Service reporter, May 24, “I see this letter as a clarification and further restatement of criteria for translation previously authored by the congregation”. The letter “offers additional input for the deliberation of the bishops”, he said. (CNS May 24, 2006, “Bishops to vote on new Order of Mass in English”.)
Meanwhile, on May 26, the National Catholic Reporter published an article by Monsignor Bruce Harbert, the new executive director of ICEL, defending the proposed translation. In his article, “The Search for Catholicity in English”, Monsignor Harbert defended the style of the translation, which seeks to address God with “courtesy”, he said; and that in achieving an appropriate style, “we sometimes have to learn expressions that are not entirely familiar”.
“The prize at the end of the process is catholicity”, he wrote. “For one and a half millennia, Latin secured the unity of a large section of the Church. It remained stable as the Romance languages were growing out of it. Now English often has a similar role. If we can develop a single English-language liturgy, faithful to the traditions of the Roman rite, we shall be handing on to the Church of the future a gift of immeasurable value”.
On May 19, 2006, the Holy See Press Office released the following communique concerning Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ:
“Beginning in 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received accusations, already partly made public, against Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, for crimes that fall under the exclusive competence of the congregation. In 2002, Fr. Maciel published a declaration denying the accusations and expressing his displeasure at the offense done him by certain former Legionaries of Christ. In 2005, by reason of his advanced age, Fr. Maciel retired from the office of superior general of the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ.
“All these elements have been subject to a mature examination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and — in accordance with the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, promulgated on April 30, 2001, by Servant of God John Paul II — the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, authorized an investigation into the accusations. In the meantime, Pope John II died and Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as the new Pontiff.
“After having attentively studied the results of the investigation, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the guidance of the new prefect, Cardinal William Joseph Levada, decided — bearing in mind Fr. Maciel’s advanced age and his delicate health — to forgo a canonical hearing and to invite the father to a reserved life of penitence and prayer, relinquishing any form of public ministry. The Holy Father approved these decisions.
“Independently of the person of the Founder, the worthy apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ and of the Association Regnum Christi is gratefully recognized”.
Source: Vatican Press Office
Many Catholics have been wincing at the anti-Christian rhetoric and absurd allegations of “fact” in the novel The Da Vinci Code — and annoyed at the usual “it’s just fiction” dodge if they attempt to respond to its preposterous distortions of Catholicism. The sustained media hype the book inspired (over 40,000,000 copies reportedly sold) was intensified by the release of the film version in May. Even the venerable Smithsonian magazine inexplicably hopped on the dubious feminist bandwagon to “rehabilitate” Mary Magdalene in its May issue.
Though the film was panned in Cannes at an advance showing to critics, and ridiculed by the reviewer for the New Yorker magazine, this does not cancel the effect of the lies about the Christian faith, about the Catholic Church, about Scripture, and about Jesus Christ Himself on gullible people — including Catholics — who apparently want to believe them.
In light of all this, it may be helpful to recall that anti-Catholicism is not a unique phenomenon of 21st-century secularized American media.
When the Americans struck an alliance with the French during the American Revolution, there was outrage among the Loyalists as we see in this quote from Claude Halstead Van Tyne’s classic history The Loyalists in the American Revolution, p. 154:
“The most vulnerable point of attack on the French alliance was the fact that the ally was Catholic. The Tories declared that Congress adopted all sorts of Romish mummery. Loyal newspapers printed the most absurd canards announcing that the French king was preparing a fleet which should come to America and convert his new subjects. Some of the vessels were laden with tons of holy water and casks of consecrated oil. A thousand chests of reliques, beads and crucifixes were ready, and a vast number of crape shifts, hair shirts, cowls and scourges. Another vessel contained many thousand consecrated wafers, crucifixes, rosaries and mass books as well as bales of indulgences. To provide for the conversion of heretics of whom America had many, the good king had not forgotten the necessary equipment of wheels, hooks, pincers, shackles and fire brands. To instruct the Americans in the use of these pious instruments, there was ready an army of priests, confessors and mendicants. Finally it had been reliably reported that Dr. [Benjamin] Franklin had been decorated with the order of the holy cross of Jerusalem”.
(Our thanks to historian Dr. Thomas C. Reeves for the quote.)
Obviously, certain political agendas were being served by such outlandish tales — then, as now. But the current “Code frenzy” is not merely aimed at the Catholic Church, but at the Christian faith itself. The reason for promoting the Gnostic “gospels” as “true” texts that were suppressed by the evil Church is to undermine both authentic Scripture, and the authority of Christian tradition.
Why? Well, if you can get even avowed believers to question (or reject) the very foundation of their faith, they will also, obviously, question (or reject) all the fundamental moral truths grounded in that faith. And that, folks, is the principal objective. (Besides making money, of course.)